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Priyvrat Gadhvi 
Preetum Gheerawo 
Manfred Waltl 
Joseph Jordania 
Fernando Quevedo de Oliveira 

Behind 

Jim Corbett's 
Stories 


An Analytical Journey to 'Corbett's Places' 
and Unanswered Questions 



Priyvrat Gadhvi (India) 
Preetum Gheerawo (Mauritius) 
Manfred Waltl (Germany) 
Joseph Jordania (Australia) 
Fernando Quevedo de Oliveira (Brazil) 


Behind JIM CORBETT’S Stories: 

An Analytical Journey to 
‘Corbett’s Places’ and 
Unanswered Questions 

Guest author: Marc Newton (UK) 

Foreword by Peter Byrne (USA) 


LOGOS 

2016 


Editor: Bob Segrave 
Cover photos: 

(1) Jim Corbett (from Oxford University Press archives) 

(2) If you are trekking towards Chuka and Thak, you will be travelling along the mighty Sarda River. 
India is on your left side and Nepal is on your right, with Sarda acting as the border. This photo 
was taken by Manfred Walts during our 20 km trek to Chuka and Thak in April 2012 

Back cover photo: 

On the 19th April 2014, the authors of this book decided to commemorate their hero’s death date by 
lighting a candle on the overhanging rock in Champa gorge, where Corbett killed his first man-eater 


Book cover design: Aleko Jikuridze 


© Priyvrat Gadhvi, Preetum Gheerawo, Manfred Waltl, Joseph Jordania, 

Fernando Quevedo de Oliveira 

All rights reserved 

The authors and the publisher permit others to use the ideas and materials from this book, as long 

as they are acknowledged. 

Disclaimer: Permission to reproduce items where third-party owned material protected by copyright 
is included has been sought and cleared where possible. Every reasonable effort has been made by 
the authors and the publisher to trace copyright holders, but if any items requiring clearance have 
unwittingly been included, the publisher will be pleased to make amends at the earliest possible 
opportunity. 


Program LOGOS 

Georgia, Tbilisi, I. Chavchavadze ave. 13 


ISBN 978-9941-437-92-2 


3 


Contents 

Foreword 5 

Acknowledgements 7 

Introduction 8 

PART ONE: PLACES 14 

The Champawat Tigress Amphitheatre 15 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

The Chowgarh Tigress’s giant slate 25 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Thak tigress killing site 41 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

Historic rock where Thak tigress escaped Corbett, Ibbotson, and Tewari 57 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

PART TWO: PEOPLE 62 

Kulomani: The Gaunt Friend of Corbett 63 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Naruli Devi and Shri Ganga Dutt Bhatt: The brave mother and the “occupant of the basket” 68 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Premka Devi: The last victim of the Champawat Man-eater 73 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Beena: Thak Tigress’s First Victim 78 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

The Identity of the Thak Man-Eater’s Second Victim 81 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

A man who put Corbett on a career of hunting man-eaters 83 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

Other Characters Alluded to in the Champawat chapter in Maneaters of Kumaon 87 

BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

PART THREE: MYSTERY AND RESEARCH 89 

Mysterious Night Scream from the Deserted Thak Village 90 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

The Mystery of Champawat Bungalow 104 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

The Mysterious Nagpur Man-Eater And Other Unknown Man-Eaters 1 15 

BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

From the National Archives of India: Ibbotson’s unknown letter 125 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

Mystery of “War Fever” that gave India Rudraprayag Man-Eater 128 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


4 


Did Corbett kill a Ladhya man-eater in 1946? 130 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA & PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

Search for Corbett Cartridges 134 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Corbetts rifles 139 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Corbett Magic: Rigby Re-Connects with Corbett 144 

BY MARC NEWTON 

Jim Corbett’s films 150 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

"Through Wounds and old age”: 159 

BY MANFRED WALTL 

PART FOUR: CONTROVERSIES 185 

Killing of the Chowgarh Man-Eater 186 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

The rudraprayag goat controversy 203 

BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

The Kanda man-eating tigers 207 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Chowgarh Tigress Cub killing Date 215 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

The Muktesar Man-Eater killing Date 219 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

The Panar Leopard killing date 222 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Chuka Man-Eater Killing Date 225 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

The bear or the tiger? Norah Vivian controversy 234 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

Meeting with Jungle Stories - The Holy Grail for Corbett fans 237 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Was a tiger subspecies really named after Jim Corbett? 241 

BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 

PART FIVE: MAKING OF THE BOOK: KUMAON 2012 AND 2014 TRIP DIARIES 244 

Corbett Trip Diary Kumaon, 2012 245 

BY MANFRED WALTL 

Corbett Trip Diary Kumaon, 2014 287 

BY MANFRED WALTL 

Corbetts Timeline 312 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

IN FOND REMEMBRANCE OF NALINA TIRVENGADUM GHEERAWO 319 

INFORMATION ABOUT THE AUTHORS OF THIS BOOK 320 


5 


Foreword 


In his life time, the India domiciled Jim Corbett, a man of Irish ancestry, lived 
as did many a colonial in British India, working hard to make a simple living and, 
through the monsoon months of every year, enduring the tropic heat of the Indian 
sun, the flies, the mosquitoes, the inevitable fevers and dysentery, and the inscrutable 
minds of the colony’s enigmatic, indigenous people. In regard to the latter, he had one 
great advantage and that was, being born in India, he was thoroughly fluent in the 
language and customs of the great subcontinent and understanding of the simplicity 
and superstition that was with them a way of life. 

As we know, most of his working life was spent at a place called Mokhamet Ghat, 
a ferry crossing on the Ganges River in the state of Bihar and his job was, simply, 
overseeing the shipping of goods from a railhead on one side of the river to another, 
on the other side. He worked there for many years until, at the turn of the century, 
something happened that changed his life forever and, in time, made him a legend in 
the land as one of its great naturalists and hunters... an incident that every student of 
his life and reader of his books knows under the name Champawat. For at that time 
he was asked by the British authorities in Naini Tal if he would undertake the hunting 
and shooting of a notorious man-eating tigress, one that had, until then, killed and 
devoured two hundred people in far west Nepal and more than two hundred in India. 

Without hesitation, asking only that all other hunters be excluded from the field 
while he would be hunting the dangerous big cat and that the government reward 
money offered for killing the animal be withdrawn, Corbett set out to find the tiger 
and, after a short though highly dangerous hunt, was able to bring it to bay and put 
it down. 

The successful shoot immediately imbued him with a reputation as a skilled shi- 
kari (hunter) to where, when another man-eater appeared on the scene in the same 
hill country, he was again asked by officialdom to go after it. With his reputation as a 
man-eater hunter firmly established, he was asked by the government to go after six 
more man-eating tigers and two man-eating leopards, all of which, over the course of 
four decades, he managed to put down. 

Then, moving into his later years and with his health a little in the balance, he 
retired from the field and started writing about his life and his extraordinary hunting 
exploits, and in the process gained international fame. But he also brought to the 
attention of the public, through his great books, questions that to this day have never 
been satisfactorily answered, questions that have defied explanation and created great 
curiosity among his readers and now, the advent of this excellent book - to which I 
am honoured to be asked to write this brief Foreword. 

The writers of this fine work - five authors from five continents - have done 
something that is long overdue with those of us who have studied Corbett’s life. They 


6 


have conscientiously taken the time - time that has actually included energetic field 
work at the sites of some of Corbett’s great hunts in Kumaon and Garhwal - to look 
deeply into some of the incidents that Corbett discusses in his books, especially the 
ones that have given rise to unanswered questions which same, many of us, to this 
day, find intriguing. 

One of these is the source of, and reason for, a mysterious scream in the night from 
a village that was known to be totally deserted. Another is the question of whether 
Corbett ever hunted out of the hill country of northwest India-in this case in Nagpur, 
in central India. Another is the mystery of the Champawat bungalow, and strange 
happenings there. Yet another is the question of the deadly post World War 1 “war 
fever” and the possibility that it may have been the cause of what turned a harmless, 
Indian hill country leopard into one of deadliest man-eaters of all time, the dreaded 
man-eater of Rudraprayag. 

This fine book, in the opinion of someone who has spent more than fifty years in 
the jungles of north India and the Nepal Terai - with five of them as an amateur hunter 
and twenty of them as a professional - is required reading for anyone interested in 
Carpet Sahib - as he was known to the native - and his extraordinary life as a hunter, 
naturalist, author, and above all - great humanitarian. 

Peter Byrne, February 2014. 

Author of 

GONE ARE THE DAYS, 

GENTLEMAN HUNTER 

HUNTING IN THE JUNGLES AND MOUNTAINS OF NEPAL. 


Acknowledgements 


7 


There’s a big number of people the authors would like to thank and acknowledge, 
each one of whom individually contributed in a direct or indirect way in the making 
of this book. 

Firstly, the authors would like to express their gratitude towards Peter Byrne, who 
was one of the first Corbett-admirers to visit places mentioned in Corbett’s books and 
document the same in the form of a book, which acted as a primer to our trips and 
research at these places. Peter shared pictures from his visits to Corbett-related places 
in 1975, when he would have seen the places just as Corbett would have a few decades 
ago. Tfiak village, now abandoned, is seen in full life in his pictures. 

The authors would like to acknowledge all Corbett-lovers and enthusiasts who 
have attempted to go on his trails over the years and decades, including those who 
remain unknown to us. The names, some of whom we know and other’s whom we 
discussed, include Durga Charan Kala, who wrote the first well-researched biography 
of Corbett, James Armstrong, who was also amongst the first visitors to these places, 
Jerry Jaleel the head of Jim Corbett Foundation, who has also written a biography of 
Corbett, A.J.T Johnsingh and IFS officers he mentions in his articles on Corbett-coun- 
try, Joel Lyall, David Blake (formerly known by a different name), Richard Allen, Keith 
McAfferty- an acclaimed author himself, Siddharth Anand and his parents, late Omi 
and Mrs. Sumi Anand, Pankaj Saran Srivastava, and several others whose spirit of 
enquiry on Corbett we share and admire. 

Special thanks are due to the descendants of the Corbett-family and Corbett’s 
friends, many of whom were contacted and who contributed generously, as did Naresh 
Bedi, Sridhar Balan, Flenry Walck Jr, his Son Brian Walck and his family who allowed 
us access to the well preserved skin of the Tfiak Tigress. 

We would also like to thank Kamal Bisth and his team from Wildrift adventures, 
our camping and logistics suppliers who accompanied us on our trips provided won- 
derful meals, tents and necessary utilities. Kamal also enthusiastically worked with 
us at various places on the research itself, and we were witness to a new Corbett 
enthusiast shaping up. 

A special mention is due for Rushika (14) and Jayalukshmi Gheerawo (12), the 
lovable daughters of Kotetcha Kristoff, who accompanied us on our often exhausting 
treks through the mountains and jungles, full of energy and fun, who made our trips 
livelier through their enthusiasm 

The cherished trips and this work would not have been possible without the sup- 
port of families and friends - and we express our deepest gratitude to Priyvrat Gadhvi’s 
parents, his wife Vratika Gadhvi, Grant Matthew, Reis and Nima Flora. Special thanks 
to Bob Segrave for his editing skills, and Yuri Bakhtadze for his computer support and 
help in making a film about our trips to Kumaon. 


8 


Introduction 

The mention of ‘Jim Corbett’ to a nature lover who hasn’t read Corbett’s books 
instantly brings to his or her mind that most famous abode of Tigers in present-day 
Uttarakhand - the Jim Corbett National Park, named after a mystical and legendary 
hunter of folklore who bravely shot man-eating tigers and leopards, yet who was also 
a conservationist, one of the earliest voices in defence of the jungle and its denizens. 
To the individual who has read Corbett and about Corbett, and who thus forms a part 
of the legion of Corbett admirers spanning several decades, the mystery and legend 
of the man only deepen! 

Jim Corbett (1875-1955), hunter-conservationist - a paradoxical truism which is 
not the only oxymoron associated with his name. He was also an Indian Englishman 
- who left India when she became independent and yet who, in the evening of his life 
wrote movingly of the country he much loved through an evocative work, My India 
(1952), a reticent story-teller - who never much fancied his skills as a writer yet cap- 
tured the imagination of millions around the world through his books, and towards 
the later years of his life, a shy celebrity - whose stories, despite being confined to the 
jungles and small villages of a remote region in North India, found resonance with an 
audience cutting across countries, continents, ages and generations. 

It would be natural to attach a degree of flamboyance and celebrity with perhaps 
the most well-known name associated with wildlife in the world - a famous hunter, 
conservationist, celebrated author of best-selling books who lends his name to one of 
the last remaining natural homes of one of the world’s most charismatic megafauna - 
the Royal Bengal Tiger. Yet, paradoxically Corbett was the epitome of simplicity and 
modesty. 

It is perhaps in these paradoxes and curiosities associated with Jim Corbett that 
the origin of this book lies. This is not a biography - six have already been written - 
Corbett himself would have felt that’s probably enough. This is rather an effort that 
emanates from a combination of the hearts of imaginative and curious readers of 
Corbett with the minds of analytically inclined & research-oriented professionals. It 
is an endeavour to bring to the reader the places, facts & theories associated with the 
legacy of Jim Corbett - to document locations, explain unanswered questions, and 
dispel errors in relation to Corbett’s stories. We are grateful to all the authors who 
wrote about Corbett. The authorship of this book is the foremost symbol of Corbett’s 
universal appeal - five authors from five continents, five different professions, differ- 
ent native languages and different age groups! Corbett’s legacy is the adhesive that 
binds together this diversity, which is emblematic of the larger Corbett universe - the 
millions of admirers around the world who have enjoyed Corbett’s stories and have 
vicariously experienced his adventures. 


INTRODUCTION 


9 


Never having thought of himself as a hero or his deeds of several years in helping 
poor & desperate villagers anything out of the ordinary, Corbett’s writings present a 
man very matter-of-fact in his descriptions. In his introductory notes in the classic 
‘Man-eaters of Kumaon’ (1944), he tells us of his endeavour to tone down the dramatic 
& sensational moments he experienced while in pursuit of man-eaters, yet the factual 
drama of his hunts is infectious and overpowering, transporting the reader to the 
scene of the action, with every repeated reading seeming like the experience relived! 

It is to this imaginary picture that every Corbett lover forms in his mind about 
the stage and setting of his hunts that we bring the real places where some of his 
most famous encounters with man-eaters took place. We researched and travelled to 
places of these hunts, following in Corbett’s footsteps, and confirming with in-depth 
analysis the exact locations of spots such as the rock where the Thak tigress met her 
end, the ‘amphitheatre’ where the Champawat man-eater was shot, the slate where the 
Chowgarh man-eater was killed and other such famous spots from Corbett’s stories. 

The book presents researched and documented facts on unresolved questions on 
Corbett’s hunts - such as the mysterious case of the Nagpur man-eater and the factual 
date of the Chuka man-eater hunt. 

Science-based perspectives are also offered on some of the queer experiences Cor- 
bett had while hunting some man-eaters, such as the mysterious human scream from 
the deserted village of Thak in 1938, or the strange experience he had while spending 
a night at a bungalow during the Champawat man-eater hunt in 1907. 

The authors spent much time travelling to places and villages of Corbett’s hunts in 
the forested areas of Kumaon - an enriching experience that made us re-live some of 
the experiences Corbett mentions in his books, and an experience desired by many- 
a-Corbett-fan! 

True to Corbett’s own strictly cautious and analytical methodology while trailing 
man-eaters, the authors maintained strict adherence to detailed analytical examina- 
tion of every aspect of every finding, rigorously questioning and debating all emerging 
answers to the diverse set of queries we sought to address, and in some cases seeking 
advice from the world authorities on the subject. For instance, the rock where the Thak 
Tigress met her end was misrepresented by well-meaning but misinformed previous 
enquirers who went to identify it - and as a consequence the wrong place entered 
common belief as the site of that famous encounter between Corbett and the tigress. 
This book presents what we believe is the real site of the encounter, reinforced by data 
emerging from minute & detailed examination of Corbett description & presented 
with facts and pictures. Constant companions to the authors in their mission in Ku- 
maon were Corbett’s books and a compass, to trace as best possible sites of Corbett’s 
encounters. A great tribute to Corbett’s eidetic memory was the confirmation, in every 
detail, of the exact topography of the jungle places he describes in his books, some of 
which were written several decades after the encounter took place. We hope the read- 


10 


ers will find sufficient proof of our claims in the book. Apart from this, we have tried 
to present some aspects, which by their very nature cannot be presented irrefutably 
in a manner open to debate & further investigation. The book also contains a running 
commentary on the both trips (2012 and 2014), in the form of a trip Diary to enable 
the reader to enjoy and experience our visit to locations he or she shall most desire 
to visit in the future. A film-documentary, shot during our 2012 and 2014 trips and 
attached to this book, will bring an enhanced visual dimension to experience our trip, 
following footsteps of Jim Corbett. 

Research 

The elemental desire to know more about Jim Corbett and his life inevitably stems 
in a reader’s mind while reading his stories, as the intrigued and engaged reader is 
taken apace with Corbett on his hunts, and vicariously imagines the situation, sights, 
experience and adventure through Corbetts uniquely dense yet lucid narrative. 

In such ‘desire to know more on Corbett’, lies the origins of the authors’ research, 
which was conducted arduously over the past several years, individually and jointly, 
across countries and indeed continents. 

The primary desire, which led to the inception of this research on Corbett, was to 
visit and identify the precise locations of his famous hunts. This primer led to other 
distinctive aspects related to Corbett being pursued, until a first compilation was at- 
tained, which is presented in this book. 

Given that Corbett’s exploits were based in remote and rustic Kumaon and Gar- 
hwal, several accounts persist in locales where his hunts occurred. These stories, passed 
down generations, are not devoid of revisions, and hence special care had to be taken 
while examining sites, people and stories related to the subjects that were encountered. 

While researching places, the authors maintained a disciplined and stringent ad- 
herence to Corbett’s descriptions as the most reliable tool in the research, and any devi- 
ation from his description was rejected. An insidious aspect of researching the locales 
of Corbett’s hunts is the terrain, which is quite bewildering and often inaccessible with 
dense overgrowth. In addition, occurrence of significant topographical changes over- 
time, effects of weather, shifting of land, filling up of spaces such as ravines, changes 
in paths and tracks, alterations in human settlements and other natural features make 
the locales a towering challenge to decipher and co-relate with Corbett’s descriptions. 
That said, after careful scrutiny, the detail and memory of Corbett in recounting and 
depicting these places and their inherent features is gloriously validated, as we found 
his descriptions exceptionally accurate! 

A careful reconstruction of events was attempted, while diligently following Cor- 
bett’s words. Measurements were made and details strongly debated before agreeing 
on a specific location as the most plausible. 


INTRODUCTION 


11 


Data was unearthed on several interesting characters featuring in Corbett’s sto- 
ries. A detailed cross-examination of people, such as descendants, who proposed 
names and other information on such characters, was made, until the information 
was deemed to be reliable and plausible. 

Individually, the authors researched aspects that were then presented to the group 
and examined for accuracy and plausibility 

Amongst the authors, Dr. Manfred Waltl (Germany) was the first to embark on 
Corbetts trails (2007). He visited several sites multiple times in the last decade, while 
taking excellent photographs of places of relevance and significance, which proved 
to be a very useful tool later in the research. Dr. Waltl also wrote a detail- oriented 
account of our collaborative visits in 2012 and 2014, presented as diaries in this book. 
His work aided in narrowing the area of research significantly, thereby saving much 
time and effort. Manfred also contributed in-depth analyses of the reasons of big cats 
becoming man-eaters, an area where Corbett is still the biggest authority. 

Dr. Joseph Jordania (Australia) made the first in-depth and scientific examination 
of a specific site of a Corbett hunt, and presented his finding for review to the larger 
Corbett community via the Jim Corbett Foundation of Canada. His find of the rock 
where Corbett killed the Thak tigress in 201 1 became the inspiration for our common 
trip to Kumaon in 2012 and subsequently writing of this book. Dr. Jordania also es- 
tablished contact with Peter Byrne, a pioneering pursuer of Corbett who was amongst 
the first to visit places such as Thak, Chuka, Champawat and others way back in 1975. 

Priyvrat Gadhvi (India) unearthed several findings that answered many linger- 
ing questions on Corbetts stories - such as the question of the mysterious ‘Nagpur 
man-eater’ referred to in a letter in Man-eaters of Kumaon, discrepancies pertaining 
to hunts such as Rudraprayag and Chowgarh. Gadhvi researched at the National 
Archives of India where interesting items were found and also pursued descendants 
of people connected to Corbett, a highlight of which was to come in contact with the 
Walck family in the United States, in possession of the skin of the Thak man-eater, 
willed to Henry Walck by Corbett. 

Preetum Gheerawo (Indian name Kotecha Kristoff, from Mauritius) made a de- 
tailed pursuit of important articles, such as Corbett’s rifles and their present homes, his 
surviving video films and other rare items. Kotecha documented the whereabouts of 
Corbett man-eater skins, researched a significant and undocumented hunt, and made 
an account of numerous unnamed characters from Corbett’s stories. 

Fernando Quevedo de Oliveira (Brazil), an avid wildlife photographer, ably creat- 
ed a crisp video compilation of the various sites that were video-graphed during our 
tours in Kumaon, which would serve to succinctly showcase to a viewer the contours 
of places associated with Corbett’s stories. 

An important item of pursuit was a surviving copy of Corbett’s original Jungle 
Stories, 1935, the prelude to Man-eaters of Kumaon, only a hundred copies of which 


12 


were printed. Considered the holy-grail of the Corbett universe, only about 2 or 3 
copies of this work are said to survive. Enquiries were made with descendants of 
friends and relatives of Corbett, which originally yielded no results. An inaccessible 
copy was traced in the United States, with the probability of another being present 
in the country. A breakthrough was achieved when Kotecha Kristoff made contact 
with Mark Newton, our guest-author and the director of John Rigby and Co, an avid 
Corbett fan, who had recently received a well preserved copy in the United Kingdom, 
presented by a rare book collector. 

Amongst the descendants of family & friends of Corbett, the authors established 
contact with the family of George Marshall, Jim’s grand-nephew who resides in the 
United Kingdom. They graciously supplied rare pictures from the family collection. 
Also contacted were Sir William Ibbotson’s family, a grandsons family living in South 
Africa who directed us to Ibbotson’s son Michael and his family, residing in the Unit- 
ed Kingdom. Another Corbett descendant contacted was Jonathan Lincoln-Gordon 
whose father David Lincoln-Gordon had a lot of contact with Jim during his East 
Africa years. 

Numerous other attempts were made to glean pertinent bits of information on 
people who featured in Corbett’s stories. Contact was made with Satbir Singh, the 
grandson of the Maharaja of Jind, a good friend of Corbett. Singh recalled his grand- 
father’s close association with Corbett and the special Tiger skin labelled ‘Jim’s Tiger’ 
that Corbett helped the Maharaja procure. The skin has since been lost or destroyed 
and the palace sold 

Several attempts, including an advertisement in local newspapers in Champawat, 
were made to trace the descendants of the ‘Tehsildar of Champawat’, who assisted Cor- 
bett in his famous Champawat hunt in 1907. No success was achieved, and needless 
to say, this led to a veritable wild goose chase 

The Oxford University Press offices in Mumbai were expected to have a trea- 
sure-trove of Corbett articles, copies of his manuscripts, letters and correspondences 
with RE Hawkins, his first biography by Marjorie Clough, photographs etc. Enquiries 
made received a positive response; however the pertinent material remained unat- 
tained. 

Authors of several articles on Corbett, appearing in Indian and international pub- 
lications, were corresponded with, including Dr AJT Johnsingh and Sridhar Balan. 
They graciously supplied useful information to assist in our work. 

Naresh Bedi, of the famous wildlife film-maker duo Bedi Brothers, very kindly 
sent us a DVD of a documentary on Corbett made for the Uttarakhand Forest de- 
partment, which has amongst other general information, priceless clips from Corbett’s 
own recorded videos, including the video entitled ‘7 Tigers.’ 

The authors had the opportunity of visiting Akshay Shah in Ranikhet, a close as- 
sociate of the late Durga Charan Kala, the historian who authored the first researched 


INTRODUCTION 


13 


biography of Corbett, a brilliant work entitled Jim Corbett of Kumaon, published in 
1979. This gave the authors an opportunity to have an insight into Kala’s pioneering 
work on Corbett. 

A curious find was a 1946 edition copy of Man-eaters of Kumaon in Chuka village. 
A village family showed us the book, gifted to the family by James Armstrong during a 
visit in 1990, a name we often encountered in our research as one of the early pursuers 
of Corbett’s legacy. Armstrong mentioned an address in Edinburgh on the book, but 
has since moved from that place, as enquiries at the address yielded no results. Written 
with pencil on the back of the book, were names of the two Tewari brothers, one of 
whom had been the victim of the Thak tigress. 

In September 2013, a landmark research was published in Nature communica- 
tions, entitled ‘The Tiger genome and comparative analysis with Lion and Snow leop- 
ard genomes’, the first ever whole genome sequencing of the Tiger, Lion and Snow 
Leopard. Priyvrat Gadhvi, one of the authors of the publication, referenced Corbett’s 
‘Temple Tiger and more Man-eaters of Kumaon’ (1954) on a discussion on the olfac- 
tory senses of Tigers, as a tribute to the great naturalist. 

There are several hitherto unexplored aspects, people and places that remain from 
Jim Corbett’s world as summons to Corbett admirers, to pursue and explore. We hope 
this forms the basis of our future editions or works. 

The authors wish to emphasize that the research has been conducted in right ear- 
nest, with care taken to scrutinize discoveries and avoid mistakes. Many places of other 
hunts and aspects not included herein remain to be researched, and, also if contrarian 
findings vis-a-vis any detail contained herein are credibly established, we would wel- 
come them as further steps towards bringing Corbett’s legacy closer to his admirers. 

In conclusion, we would like to state that the book is a token of gratitude to the 
great man - Jim Corbett and to the greater cause of environment protection and 
wildlife conservation that he espoused. We hope the readers have as much fun and 
joy reading it, as we have had writing it. 

PRIYVRAT GADHVI, India 
PREETUM GHEERAWO, Mauritius 
MANFRED WALTL, Germany 
JOSEPH JORDANIA, Australia 
FERNANDO QUEVEDO DE OLIVEIRA, Brazil 


14 


PART ONE: PLACES 


This part of the book deals with the places associated with Jim Corbett’s historic 
hunts. Most of the precise sites of Corbett’s hunts are almost impossible to establish 
because of the changing nature of the topography and the places themselves, but in 
some cases, when the hunts found their climax at well defined rocks, there is a much 
better possibility of finding them. 

Here we have discussed the projecting rock at the Champa river amphitheatre, 
where the mortally wounded Champawat tigress made her last stand, the giant “school 
slate” where the story of the Chowgarh tigress found its conclusion, the four feet high 
rock with a ledge where the Thak tigress was shot from, and the ascending giant rock 
where the Thak tigress closely escaped death. 

We give the full account of our search and the finds, with accompanying photos, 
complemented with our pros and cons about the places we found. We tried to make it 
possible for the Corbett followers to find these places easily if they decide to visit them. 


15 


The Champawat Tigress Amphitheatre 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

This paper is dedicated to the finding of the spot where the Champawat tigress, 
the first man-eater shot by Jim Corbett, met its end in dramatic circumstances after a 
scrappy beat on an early afternoon in the spring of the year 1907. Owing to its ancient- 
ness, this particular hunt, which is now over a century old and was already 36 years 
old when Corbett put it into writing, was very difficult to pursue. This is because of 
the fact that the main protagonists are long gone since at least two generations back, 
the lack of village names in the vicinity of the hunt given in Man-eaters of Kumaon 
(1944) and the extensive development that Champawat has undergone since then. 
Champawat has now become the main town of a district also called Champawat, 
which was formerly called the Eastern Almora. The finding of the exact spot could not 
have been possible without the reconnaissance job done by Manfred Waltl in 2007 and 
by a stroke of good luck back in April 2012. In April 2014 the site was again investi- 
gated until the village of the last victim was found and also confirmed the location of 
the famous haunted bungalow. 

Prologue - 2012 Campaign for the Champawat site 

After having set-off from Chuka, done the 28 kilometres walk to Thuligad, gone 
to Tanakpur to book the Champawat Tourist Rest House (an undertaking of the Ut- 
tarakhand Government), a final drive for three and a half long hours to Champawat 
was still necessary. That day (13th April, 2012) seemed never to end till finally we were 
in our rooms under a chilling 8°C temperature. Dr Jordania and Priyvrat were still 
arguing as whether the shower in their room produced a water temperature similar 
to or worse than the the Sharda River. I had quickly given a shower to my little girls 
and was eagerly waiting for Manfred to come with the beers and our dinner that he 
had proposed to fetch for us from the Champawat Bazaar. Owing to the hard day we 
had, girls having their dinner and while drinking the no-need-to-put-in-the fridge- 
beer (8°C beer is not that bad!), plans were being made for the next day. Although 
plans we had made in plenty when enjoying our food and drink, but no one dared 
to remind the party that we had no exact starting point to begin with the next day. 

To be sincere with our readers, I wish to point that we didn’t really expect to find 
the exact spot of the Champawat tigress hunt, but at least we had agreed the previous 
night that the key locations would be quite easy to locate. These involved (1) The 
Champa river (not yet called Lohaghat River) gorge, (2) The Champawat Forest Bun- 
galow, (3) and the Gaudi village where Peter Byrne (Shikari Sahib, 2003) claimed the 
last victim of the tigress lived. Manfred, who had previously dealt with the Champawat 


16 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Forest bungalow in his previous visit said it is not too difficult to locate because it 
is found on the way from Champawat to Tamuli while driving along the Talla-Des 
Road (not immediately concerned with the Talla-Des Man-eater) and to leave the 
Talla-Des road at the junction after it crosses a bridge. Incidentally the bridge is on 
the river which carves its way through the Champa Gorge. Manfred further added 
that according to Peter Byrne and the guide from his last visit, the Champawat Forest 
bungalow is called the Phungar Forest bungalow, and on hearing that name, I could 
not find a suitable reason why this name has been assigned for it. Only in 2014, we 
had come to conclusions that it was named after the village Phungar. Anyway, the 
only importance it meant now was that the bungalow was to be our starting point for 
our investigation and by deduction on the story by Corbett, Gaudi village wouldn’t 
be too far, the Champa gorge neither, this would however have been proved wrong 
later. While we had only tea as breakfast on that morning of the 14th April 2012, an 
early start was highly recommended because Dr Jordania and Priyvrat would have 
only half of this day to spend in the research and the next half would be their drive to 
Delhi Airport, to leave me, Manfred and the girls alone to tackle the next milestone, 
the Chowgarh tigress hunting spot. 

The turn of luck - killing site found first 

We split our group in two parts for there were two cars supplied to us by our tour 
operator, myself and the girls in the small Tata Indica and the rest of the boys in the 
Toyota, our drivers had had beforehand the instruction to go along the Talla-Des road 
in the direction of Tamuli and to ask where we should turn to go to the Phungar Forest 
Bungalow and the Champa gorge. The key point of the story, fortunately for you, dear 
Reader, is that you need not go too far in the narration to find that we reached the 
killing spot of the Champawat man-eater first by pure luck. 

I had asked the driver of our car to enquire at a shop if we could buy a packet of 
biscuits for the girls, and the kind man of our driver Mr Shankar Singh Bakhuni said 
he would also take the opportunity to ask the direction as well. We were in the leading 
car and the boys’ car had stopped behind us when our driver had entered the parking 
space in front of a shop . While being seated and the motor still running our driver 
had asked two things at the same time, yelling to the man standing in front of the trade 
if he had biscuits and if he knew where the Champawat gorge, Gaudi and Phungar 
Forest Bungalow road was. The man, appearing to be a shopkeeper told the driver, he 
didn’t have biscuits but the ‘Gaudi, forest, gorge and ...other things” he was looking 
for is to take the next junction to the left some 500 metres ahead and they sell biscuits 
there!! Two exclamations are needed here, I’m sure the reader will understand why. 

It appeared strange, at first, that they sold biscuits at the Phungar Forest bungalow 
or next to the Champa gorge, but for me, the most important was to get something 
on the stomach for the girls, so I did not question the fact, when our driver signalled 


THE CHAMPAWAT TIGRESS AMPHITHEATRE 


17 


to the driver of the boys’ car to follow him. Now, Manfred who was in the boys’ car 
suspected that something was going wrong, and later he confessed to me that he 
knew it was the wrong direction to the Phungar Forest Bungalow, but at last when 
we headed in that road, he noticed that we were on the opposite side of the Champa 
gorge, meaning the opposite side to where he investigated in 2007 and found the 
Phungar Forest Bungalow. Manfred was therefore not too worried because he now had 
an opportunity to see the Champa gorge from the other side. The road was winding, 
sloping and bumpy, till some 5kms after entering the road we reached a place where 
it was practically impossible to go further by car. 

There was a small shop on the left of the road and when we enquired there ... 
BANG ON LUCK!!! The shopkeeper Gopal Singh Bohra is the grandson of Dhungar 
Singh, the latter, who as a kid, had assisted in the beat and hunt of the Champawat 
tigress in 1907. The village where his shop is situated adjacent to is Gaudi. . . and he sells 
biscuits! While digesting the exclamation, ‘No Way’, I said to myself, this was too good 
to be true. I was inclined to believe the local usual folklore of “My grandfather had 
hunted with Corbett”, “My great grand uncle was there in 19..”, “I will tell you the story 
of the man-eater...et all”; when visiting Corbett’s hunting spots, was also deep-rooted 
here. I was still more convinced of the Corbett folklore when the shopkeeper proposed 
to get in our car to bring us to the spot where the famous tigress met its end. And he’s 
asking Ten rupees too... not for the guided tour, I’m ashamed of having thought so, 
but this time to produce biscuits for the girls while myself, Manfred, Dr Jordania and 
Priyvrat went down the gorge to investigate. I felt sorry for misjudging the shopkeeper, 
Gopal Singh Bohra, who, being a good man, you even refused to take a tip for showing 
us the way, and the girls still remember the good vanilla and orange flavored biscuits 
he brought for them, God shall keep you safe and well. 

Investigating down the gorge - The Amphitheatre 

To admit one’s mistake is said to redeem oneself, still I made another while we 
had made a 50 metres descent on a more or less not steep slope. I was convinced that 
it could not have been the place of the hunt because Corbett mentioned bracken and 
ringals (hill bamboos) as to the place where the tigress had entered the gorge after 
killing the 16-year-old girl, the last victim. But we were at the place the hunt ended, 
not where it started. My doubts had cost us some precious minutes though, before I 
went further down to investigate. The gradient of the slope was fairly easy, but still 
though one must guide himself properly through the hairpins cut on the ground by 
honey-collectors (evidence of their activity was found in a discarded bee-nest), to 
avoid a fall or rather a tumble of several metres in depth. While “Man-eaters of Ku- 
maon” was being consulted in quick succession by Manfred, Dr Jordania and Priyvrat, 
one conclusion came into mind simultaneously for the three of them, which Manfred 
voiced out: “We’re looking at the Amphitheatre...” 


18 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Now, before we proceed further to explain why we now had a stronger feel that 
we had arrived at the right place, it is necessary to explain where we were and how 
we reached there. I already said that we intended to go along the Talla-Des road to 
investigate the Forest bungalow there (Corbett’s famous bungalow in which he expe- 
rienced a super-natural event) and we should be able to find the place he proposes 
for the shooting of the tigress, but as already mentioned, the Talla-Des road junction 
was missed and we entered a junction to the left, almost north easterly towards Gaudi 
village. We did not know that we were heading towards Gaudi village, which Byrne 
(Shikari Sahib, 2003) mentions that the last victim of the Champawat tigress was from. 
The distance from this junction to the shop of Mr Gopal Singh Bohra or the temple 
found opposite to his shop is exactly 4.9kms. When Mr Bohra entered the car, we drove 
backwards and directed us to the place of shooting of the tigress which he knew from 
to his grandfather Dhungar Singh Bohra. We covered only 400 metres, arriving at the 
crest of an adjacent ridge to the road. The accuracy of our measurement obtained from 
the odometer reading of the Tata Indica is roughly out by 50 metres each way. This 
adjacent ridge slopes down towards the mouth of the gorge and at the point where it 
meets the river bed, the course of the river, which follows the gorge, changes direction, 
in that coming from a West direction, it is arrested by a rock wall on the opposite side 
of the gorge and its course goes due North after encountering this rock wall. 

While copies of ‘Man-Eaters of Kumaon were being scanned for other details, Dr 
Jordania, who had been the only one of us equipped with a compass, encountered the 
following lines in his book which Corbett writes: 

"I was sitting on the south edge of a great amphitheatre of hills, 
without a habitation of any kind in sight. A stream entering from the 
west had fretted its way down, cutting a deep valley right across the 
amphitheatre. To the east the stream had struck solid rock, and turn- 
ing north had left the amphitheatre by a narrow gorge." 

This matches both the place which we were contemplating while sitting, just like 
Corbett was, and the remarks Manfred made earlier about the ‘amphitheatre’ he is 
now attempting to describe us: This is the amphitheatre, very steep edges of a long 
running gorge interspersed with hills and ridges at every place where the river bends 
itself. The remark of Manfred came almost simultaneously with Dr Jordania checking 
the compass for directions. 

The direction of the river course aligned itself perfectly with the red pointer of the 
compass towards the North. The river was entering the gorge from the west and was 
changing its course towards the North. This was an unmistakable characteristic of the 
place Corbett mentions while seeing the amphitheatre in the background. Now we 
were all convinced and the next step apart from going further down to investigate for 
more, was to reconstruct the scene of the beat and the paths and directions taken by 
all actors of the beat and hunt of that spring of 1907, tigress also comprising. 


THE CHAMPAWAT TIGRESS AMPHITHEATRE 


19 


Discussing the validity of Gaudi as the last victim’s village 

Before reconstructing Corbett’s path while going after the Champawat tigress or 
the path of the beaters on the next day, let us first discuss if the last victim was really 
of Gaudi village or not. While in 2012 it seemed very attractive to believe that Gaudi 
was the right village because of the proximity to the killing site, later on, there was 
mounting evidence to show that Gaudi could not have been the village which Corbett 
mentions in the italic quotes two paragraphs below. 

Peter Byrne has been a very valuable help for us to reach anywhere near where 
we should have been. His book indicated us Gaudi village, a lucky mistake for us, 
while misguiding us to the village of the last victim but to fall on Gopal Singh Bohra 
who showed us the killing spot. Byrne also proposed a killing site for the Champawat 
man-eater in his book. Therefore we had to make further investigations to be sure that 
we were at the right spot. No attempt is made here to disprove Byrne’s proposed site but 
only a reconstruction of events from Man-Eaters of Kumaon and the actual terrain to 
find any mismatch between Gaudi and what Corbett writes in Man-Eaters of Kumaon: 

"I was standing talking to him [tehsildar] while looking down a 
long sloping hill with a village surrounded by cultivated land in the 
distance, when I saw a man leave the village and start up the hill in 
our direction. . . " 

To discuss the validity of our site let us quash our original beliefs (in 2012) that 
the last victim’s village was from Gaudi, from the following points: 

Gaudi is the village North-East to the killing spot. It is 500 metres to the proposed 
killing spot (Gopal Bohra’s spot) and ranges until some 3kms away on the hills that 
border the Champa gorge towards Lohaghat. A very long and extended village indeed, 
not one that could have been surrounded by cultivation. 

Habitations of Gaudi village are spread out on the hillsides that compose the land 
topography and at first we believed that at the foot of on one of these hills, the last 
victim was killed. In reality, the lowest habitations of Gaudi are still high up on the 
North Eastern side of the gorge, quite elevated indeed. This to avoid the rushing waters 
of the Champa river during the monsoon months. 

If Gaudi was the village of the last victim, then the bungalow t Corbetthat stayed 
should have been overlooking the village for him to see a man start off hurriedly and 
head towards him. To have overlooked the village, there is no place higher than the 
village itself on this side of the gorge. 

Manfred and I, had thoroughly investigated the village the next day after finding 
Dhungar Singh. We could not find any sort of ruins of an ancient bungalow nor any 
villager or even Gopal Singh Bohra’s son, a forest officer could tell us that if a bungalow 
had existed in the near vicinity of their village. 


20 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Furthermore, there was not a single inhabitant of Gaudi that could tell us of a 
tiger victim, a girl aged sixteen, some 100 years ago, or even her subsequent relatives 
though they knew Corbett well. 

In Man-Eaters of Kumaon we read that: “The tehsildar was waiting for me at the 
village. I explained the position to him and asked him to take immediate steps to col- 
lect as many men he could, and to meet me at the tree where the girl had been killed 
at ten o’clock the following morning. Promising to do his best, he left for Champawat, 
while I climbed the hill to the bungalow.” This obviously indicates that the village of 
the last victim is on the same side of the gorge as the Forest Bungalow (no crossing 
of gorge is mentioned). 

The last point being very important, if we still assume Gaudi as the village, then 
the beat (or at least the assembled men) should have been collected there. But Gaudi 
is on the opposite side of the gorge’s amphitheatre. To have conducted the beat from 
Gaudi would have been contrary to what had been written in Man-Eaters of Kumaon: 
“If I could collect sufficient men to beat the entire length of the ridge from the stream 
to the precipitous hill...” The precipitous hill as mentioned earlier is a feature of the 
amphitheatre on the Phungar side of the ridge. 

So, in conclusion, Gaudi could not have been the place where the last victim was 
from. Phungar is on the side of the precipitous hill and the densely wooded patch 
slope. Let’s see why it is a better candidate. 

Phungar as the village hosting the last victim and the bungalow 

As quoted earlier from Man-Eaters of Kumaon, the bungalow, which Corbett oc- 
cupied when the last victim was carried by the tigress, overlooked the village. When 
we had been in Phungar in 2012, Manfred and I had concluded that the Phungar 
forest bungalow did not overlook Gaudi village, so initially it had been discounted 
as a potential candidate. But since Gaudi is no longer assumed as the correct village, 
then Phungar comes in actuality again. Just a line to tell you that from the beginning 
(i.e. since 2012) Manfred was the first to tell us that Phungar might still stand a better 
candidate for the bungalow location than Gaudi and that when Byrne affirmed the 
last victim was from Gaudi and the bungalow in Phungar, only one of them should 
stand good. 

On the 18th April 2014, we had therefore set for Phungar first and found that the 
village had hosted the last victim of the Champawat man-eater. This account is found 
at the ‘People and Places’ section of this book. So if the last victim was of Phungar, 
then the Phungar forest bungalow must have been the famous bungalow where Cor- 
bett occupied and experienced a super-natural event. The relative of the last victim, a 
very frail old man, was therefore picked from the Phungar village and brought to the 
bungalow to share our lunch and for our interview. 


THE CHAMPAWAT TIGRESS AMPHITHEATRE 


21 


During our three visits in April 2014 the bungalow was allegedly occupied by an 
official from the forest department, and as he was away for a several days, we did not 
manage to go inside of the Corbett room. Although the other room, that was occupied 
in 1907 by Bahadur, Corbett’s friend and servant, was accessible and we entered it. 
Investigations had been going into and outside the yard of the Phungar bungalow and 
here are the points that stand in its favour: 

There is no other forest bungalow or ‘Dak’ (post runner) bungalow very near 
Phungar or even near Gaudi. The closest other bungalow lies East of Phungar some 
5 kms towards the main road to Lohaghat. This is a Dak (post runner) bungalow 
and could well have been the first bungalow which Corbett stays in when coming to 
Champawat after the man-eater as quoted in Man-Eaters of Kumaon: “The tehsildar 
of Champawat, to whom I had been given letters of introduction, paid me a visit that 
night at the Dak bungalow where I was putting up, and suggested I should move next 
day to a bungalow a few miles away, in the vicinity of which many human beings had 
been killed.” 

Phungar Forest Bungalow is not a Dak Bungalow, but occupied by the Forest 
Department (now of Uttarakhand as mentioned on a sign at the entrance). It consists 
of a very old building (two-roomed) and two other newer structures, one presumably 
for the watchman near the gate and the third, at the rear, as an office. I cannot say 
for certain that it is now occupied because we had come on weekends for both trips, 
once in 2012 and three times in 2014, and no officer of any kind was present. It is 
the two-roomed very, old building which we suspected to be the Corbett bungalow. 
It has an inscription P.W.D., meaning Public Works Department, instead of the usual 
inscription DFO (Divisional Forest Office) as affixed on the first building near the gate. 

Dr Jordania who had been scanning the surroundings of the Phungar bungalow 
with Manfred reported to me that Phungar village where we picked the old man (rel- 
ative of the last victim: see elsewhere in book) is seen over the wall of the bungalow’s 
fence. Though later he was doubtful whether the village he had seen was Phungar or 
not. If indeed it was Phungar seen from the bungalow, this could be the most import- 
ant point since it tallies with Corbett saying that from the bungalow he could see a 
man setting off from the village. 

Phungar village, now that we were certain that it hosted the last victim, is not seen 
on the opposite side of the gorge (Gaudi side). The bungalow if one existed there, could 
not be a suitable candidate. 

Gaudi village is not seen from the Phungar bungalow. It appears strange because 
as mentioned earlier, Gaudi has some quite elevated habitations. This is due to the 
fact that Phungar village lies much lower than the bungalow. The bungalow is on the 
eastern slope of a hill which borders the Champa gorge on that side. Therefore, Gaudi 
being in the north-east is barred by the hilltop. Byrne could only have got only one 


22 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


of these right: Gaudi as the village, or Phungar as the bungalow. It turns out to be 
the latter. 

Reconstructing Corbett’s footsteps and the beat for the tigress 

Once you agree with those facts stated above, which we have verified on the ac- 
tual ground to have been very realistically described by Corbett, we can continue by 
again standing down the gorge where the river changes course, in that coming from 
the west, it is arrested by a rocky cliff and diverts to the north. You will have to refer 
to the Sketch Map for that purpose now. 

The old man, relative of the last victim, had been very helpful in the confirmation 
of Phungar village as the village of the last victim. According to him, and we verified 
that fact, the girl was killed some 200 metres from the Phungar village on the brow 
of the gorge. The starting reference for these 200 metres is the edge of the village 
overlooking the wooded patch where the old man was pointing to show where her 
aunt was killed. The bungalow to this reference point is approximately 500 metres 
(Odometer reading testified). This leaves you some 500 metres walk to the village and 
still some 200 metres towards the wooded patch to the tree where the girl was killed. 

Let us see now, how the beat is organised. For our reader to have a clear picture 
of the situation, imagine that at noon on the day the tigress was killed, you, acting as 
Corbett, have two hundred and ninety eight men to lead from the point of assembly 
(the tree under which the girl was killed, as per previous description) and you proceed 
by taking them on the ridge, which joins the wooded patch which runs almost parallel 
to the valley formed by the Champa stream. You have your Man-Eaters of Kumaon 
book with you and you have just followed these lines to accomplish the previous: 
"When the men were assembled and had received the ammunition they 
needed, I took them to the brow of the hill where the girl's skirt was 
lying, and pointing to a pine tree on the opposite hill..." and later 

"Making a wide detour I crossed the upper end of the valley, 
gained the opposite hill and made my way down..." 

The opposite hill you observe from where you stand now is the opposite side 
(western side) of steep valley formed by the Champa river. I don’t know if you would 
be able to accomplish this nowadays since the valley down is steeply eroded, but I 
think, without making too much of a detour, my friends Manfred Waltl, Dr Jordania 
and Priyvrat Gadhvi with the help of the valuable Kamal Bisth, managed to do that in 
less than 2 hours on the 18th April 2014. Then they proceeded like you shall do now 
towards the part of the gorge where the grand finale would be waiting. You catch the 
thread from Man-Eaters of Kumaon: 

“I was still a hundred and fifty yards from the gorge...” and later 
“As I ran down the hill I noticed that there was a patch of green grass near the 
mouth of the gorge...” And while hiding in the grass, 


THE CHAMPAWAT TIGRESS AMPHITHEATRE 


23 


“Facing me was the hill that was being beaten, and the gorge that I hoped the 
tigress would make for was behind my left shoulder.” 

You have accomplished those steps carefully as Corbett describes and you have 
reached the spot where the densely wooded hill (which your men are beating) meets 
a precipitous hill, both on the eastern side of the Champa river. A third feature add- 
ed to this landscape is the western side of the river which hosts a ridge with a steep 
descent down the valley below. A view from the top of the ridge is shown here, but 
remember that you are down. 

This is place where the river bed crosses from the west to the north. Directly in 
front of you, there is the precipitous hill and to the right, not seen on the photo pro- 
vided there is the densely wooded hill beaten by your men, shown here. 

To the left you have the yellowish pine trees of the precipitous hill and to the right 
is the densely wooded patch slope of the hill. The line of intersection between these 
two features is clearly seen, though the ravine between them is not visible here, but 
only when you reach the bed of the stream, which I assume you have reached by now 
and waiting. When you finally see the tigress coming, she appears to your right at the 
end of the wooded patch some 300 metres away. There she encounters the (missed?) 
shots of the tehsildar and you also send a ‘despairing bullet after her’. The tigress then 
heads back into the wooded patch and some time later re-appears to your left as Cor- 
bett mentions in Man-Eaters of Kumaon: 

"...I was holding my breath and listening for the screams that would 
herald the tigress's arrival when she suddenly broke cover to my 
left front and, taking the stream at a bound, came straight for the 
gorge..." 

Obviously she broke cover to your left (remember you had the gorge behind your 
left shoulder), at the intersection of the wooded patch slope with the precipitous hill, 
two features forming the gorge and crossed the river and coming on the western bank, 
where you are in the grass. You fire two shots at the tigress, the last at a range of less 
than 30 metres. Then you give another look to your Man-Eaters of Kumaon book to 
confirm where the tigress had gone after this second shot: 

"Very slowly she turned, crossed the stream to her right, climbed 
over some fallen rocks, and found a narrow ledge that went diagonally 
up and across the face of the precipitous hill to where there was a 
great flat projecting rock." 

You observe carefully the above lines to follow the tigress’s footsteps and here is 
what you find (see the photo of the protruding rock where the Champawat tigress 
died). 

Nowadays, after more a century of wearing and erosion, the ascending ledge to 
the projecting rock from the left is no longer the one which can afford you a steady 
foothold. But certainly the tigress should have taken it if it had to go on the projecting 


24 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


rock from the river bed. The last time you consult your Man-Eaters of Kumaon book is 
to confirm the accuracy of the projecting rock as the measurement given in your book: 
“At the rock, which was twelve to fourteen feet high in height, their advance was 
checked, for the outer face had been worn smooth by the stream when in spate...” 
My friends have measured this rock to be fifteen feet high. This measurement, 
taken more than 100 years after, correlates almost perfectly, when taking into account 
the wearing of the base of the stream. You are delighted to have found the killing site 
of Corbett’s first man-eater. 

Epilogue 

We have been amply rewarded for our perseverance of having visited this place of 
significance twice in 3 years. We thank Gopal Singh Bohra, Shankar Singh Bakhuni, 
Kamal Bisth and his team and last but not least Dev Singh Bohra for their invaluable 
contribution of finding and asserting the exactness of the spots described above. 


25 


The Chowgarh Tigress’s giant slate 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

"This rock about which I have said so much 
I can best describe as a giant school slate, 
two feet thick at its lower end, and standing up 
not quite perpendicularly on one of its long sides." 

Jim Corbett: The Chowgarh Tigers, Man-Eaters of Kumaon 

This paper is about finding the place where the elder Chowgarh tigress, meaning 
the mother man-eating tigress whose cub was mistaken for herself and accidentally 
shot by Jim Corbett previously, met its end on the 11th of April 1930 in a thrilling 
encounter with the hunter, late that afternoon. The place, on the western side of the 
Kala Agar ridge, characterized by a giant school slate-lie rock some 1 5 feet high was 
yet to be found by anyone who had done research on Corbett hunting spots. In April 
2012, we (Manfred and myself) were not 100% sure to have found the correct slate’ 
though we might have reached the correct spot at an accuracy within 400 metres, in- 
side or just outside a semicircle having that radius and whose centre would be at the 
spot of the ‘slate’ we have found. Unfortunately, our account was not published and 
only circulated among close friends and we thought that it would be somehow left 
to one’s own appreciation to agree or disagree with the said finding, while the latter 
option opens the door to anyone as adventurous as their hero, Jim Corbett, to try to 
locate the ‘slate’, for themselves using the original paper as a guide and of course a 
copy of “Man-Eaters of Kumaon” on hand. However, no one followed our heels nor 
succeeded in finding a more appropriate spot for the ‘slate’. In the meantime, even 
Manfred and I grew critical on our finding and were mad at ourselves that we did not 
try the ‘OTHER’ alternative as you’ll learn here. Therefore, we came back in April 2014 
accompanied by Dr Jordania and Priyvrat and made amends to our 2012 misgivings. 

As a matter of reference for distances and to respect the original text of Corbett, 
both the Imperial foot, yard and mile and the Metric metre shall be used, approximate 
conversions being that 1 mile=1600 metres=1780 yards; and 1 yard=0.9 metre=3 feet 

The 2012 Trip - How we got there and why? 

After setting off from Champawat on the 15th of April 2012, we had planned our 
next stop to be the Okhalkanda Forest House falling under the Divisional Forest Office 
of Nainital, and we were always nervous, myself and Manfred due to the fact of both 
the difficulty of the finding of the slate which no one has ever achieved yet and that 
we were just two now, after Dr Jordania and Priyvrat had to return to Delhi as per 
their respective schedules. 


26 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Another worry solely resting on my shoulders were that my two daughters would 
have to be left with our driver in the car when Manfred and I went on our investi- 
gation which to our best estimate would have taken four hours. We arrived at such a 
conclusion the night before, just after settling at the Okhalkanda Forest Flouse, which 
had been graciously made available to our disposal by the Chief Medical Officer of 
Nainital). Then between two full-pints of 8% strong Indian beer, which after our 6 
hour drive, made us new men again, Manfred presented a paper entitled “Finding the 
Chowgarh Slate” which he prepared prior to his travel and while discussing though 
it, drew the conclusion that we would need some 4 hours, not less, for the task of 
finding the slate. 

I had questioned Manfred about our chances since the very first minute we met 
in Delhi 10 days earlier, and he only answered my question after giving me ample 
information about his first search there, some 4 years earlier, and after telling me that 
he had prepared a paper for it, which we would discuss it once we are in Okhalkanda, 
and added plainly: We have a good chance. . . For me it was insufficient and I wanted a 
figure in percentage if possible to assess our chances, but Manfred kept saying he was 
pretty sure he was quite near four years ago and the rock was at most a mile from he 
stopped his searching. That gave me full hopes, for searching within a mile radius for 
two persons is the not the hardest achievable task on earth, but what followed next 
on the 16th of April 2012 would prove me wrong. 

Our supposed only one hour drive to Kala Agar village from Okhalkanda via 
Pakhari via Khansiun via Gargari (all are small ‘pattis’ or assembly of habitations 
forming a village, all of which the Chowgarh tigress claimed one victim) came to an 
abrupt stop some one hour after we started just before Khansiun when Jayalukshmi 
my youngest daughter asked to go out to regurgitate her breakfast. She had just been 
recovering from an attack of gastro- enteritis suffered in Chuka 4 days earlier and that 
would have been the only explanation of her ill health though another might suggest 
that it was not the best option to start driving just after having had breakfast along a 
long and winding hill road which is heavily broken and bumpy at some places. Then 
finally one hour after our forced halt, we reached Kala Agar village and stopped at the 
first shop in sight on the left side of the road to enquire about our starting point: The 
Kala Agar Forest Bungalow. This was a teashop cum grocery and the owner tells us 
to take the steps up the terraces some fifty metres further on the same left side as the 
shop. He further added, that once the steps been engaged, to enquire further with the 
inhabitants of the terraces should we find difficulty in getting through. 

Handing a 100 rupee note to our driver Shankar Singh Bhakuni, originating from 
Haldwani, a man of immense generosity and patience, I instructed him to look after 
the girls and to use the money to buy food and drinks for them should that become 
necessary. And Manfred adding to him not to worry if he sees us taking more than 
the four hours we had prescribed. If I had known an ounce out of a ton of what would 


THE CHOWGARH TIGRESS’S GIANT SLATE 


27 


be awaiting us in terms of the terrain that should be negotiated to reach our goal, 
I would also have asked our driver to send for a search party should he not see us 
returning after five hours. This only came to mind when after reaching the western 
face of the Kala Agar ridge, we noticed that we would have to negotiate among severe 
neck-breaking gradients. 

The Kala Agar Forest Bungalow - The First Objective 

Words run high, and fast too, in those Kumaon hills just like in the days of Jim 
Corbett. Having engaged the first few terraces from the main road, we came along 
a man, of a wise-age-looking face, accompanied by his two sons, the youngest being 
at most 13 years old. He said in Hindi, he’ll help us to find the Kala Agar Forest 
bungalow, without myself, already out of breath, having had the time to whisper to 
him to indicate us the direction or to ask him how he knew where we were going. 
This, very hospitable, proud member of the hardy hill folks heir line of the Kumaon 
hills, graciously offered us to have tea and, after his disappointment, since we politely 
declined, offered his youngest son to guide us to the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow. He 
then recognized Manfred, telling him, while I translated, that he remembers him four 
years back when he came to their village and investigated the Forest Bungalow and 
places around it. He then instructed his son to remain with us for any purpose that 
we would need. We thanked him and I told him, we would need his son only up to 
the Forest Bungalow and we shall send him back when we reach there. 

Winding continuously, while gaining altitude for every terrace that we crossed, we 
arrived at a more or less straighter part along a wider terrace where the boy pointed 
towards the bungalow and Manfred duly acknowledges. In our advancing direction, 
we could see two independent buildings consisting of bricks and inverted V-shaped 
roofs tiled with metal and wood sheets and the closer we got, I was telling myself that 
these buildings cannot be from the time of Corbett. 

Therefore the boy was persistently queried about the old bungalow and while 
himself was unsure, because of his junior age, he called upon a friend of his, who 
incidentally appeared on the scene, certainly as a result of the “high running words 
of the hills”. The second boy knew more about the place, saying that not to worry, the 
Government officer who attends these bungalows would be called upon to give us 
more details, but that we were not ready to wait for. A close inspection of the building 
on the right hand side (in relation to our advancing direction) shows that it is the 
one of the two which is in activity and the other one seems to have been abandoned. 

The abandoned bungalow has a date of 1956 on it, and whether it is the date is 
has ceased to be used or the date erected, we did not know. While swerving around 
this older building to answer the previous question, I noticed two more, older build- 
ings, the one just behind the active forest bungalow, seemed the oldest. Climbing a 
one-metre wall which separates the two buildings, I went to investigate and take some 


28 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


photos. But no further clue was to be obtained about its date of construction or activ- 
ity. Thanking the boys with a small note in our handshakes, we sent them back to the 
village and we went uphill in the western direction to try to locate the forest road. In 
Corbett times, the forest road ran from the bungalow to the north face of the ridge 
and continued on the face until it turns at the crossing of the northern and western 
faces. Nowadays, everywhere is terraced and while engaging uphill in terraced fields 
for some 400 metres while gaining some 100m altitude, we came to a wide footpath 
about two metres wide, bordered on each side with split rock, which do the duty of 
walls, for securing this path against erosion. It is this footpath which Manfred says is 
the same old forest road path from Kala Agar to Chamoli. 

The North/West Crossing Point of the Ridge and Peter Byrne 

Besides having a compass with us and Manfred’s notes we had The “Man-Eaters 
of Kumaon” copy as prime reference. Photostats of Peter Byrne book (2003) were with 
Manfred and I had a copy of both Booth’s Carpet Sahib (2011 Edition) and Kala’s Jim 
Corbett of Kumaon (2009 Edition) in my bag. 

Checking with the compass showed that we were exactly along the northern face 
of the Kala Agar ridge and if we followed that path for a little more than a kilometre, 
which was an estimate for the extreme visible part of the ridge, we would be crossing 
faces and be on the western side of it. The compass reassured me, although Manfred 
was already dead-confident, because Jim Corbett mentioned in Man-Eaters of Ku- 
maon: 

“I had gone out that day at 2 p.m. with the intention of tying up my three buffaloes 
at selected places along the forest road, when at a point a mile from the bungalow, 
where the road crosses a ridge and goes from the north to the west face of the Kala 
Agar range, I came on a large party of men who had been out collecting firewood” 

There was no mistake possible now we were on the right track. Therefore the po- 
sition of the forest bungalow also might have not changed since 1930. Corbett’s letter 
(to Maggie) appearing in Booth’s Carpet Sahib gives a good indication of the spot as 
well and as from now we were walking with opened book copies in our hands, till 
Manfred indicated that there is one investigation to do before we carry on. He takes 
out photocopies (of Peter Byrne’s Shikari Sahib 2003) and tells me some 400 metres 
from where we are, there is a spot which is described as the Chowgarh slate by the 
said author, and is only some ten metres on the right of the forest footpath. 

Arriving at that spot Manfred turned facing me and bowed slightly to his left and 
with his hands elegantly showing towards a fifteen foot rock, invites me to enter the 
dense thorned bushes path which leads to this rock, this we accomplished with some 
difficulty and a few scratches on the skin later, we reached the rock. 

It would have been perfect for us to present this rock as the giant slate where 
the Chowgarh tigress met its end, if only. . . it was on the other side of the ridge. As 


THE CHOWGARH TIGRESS’S GIANT SLATE 


29 


it was clearly described by Jim Corbett, the stalking starts beyond the point where 
the northern side crossed the western side of the ridge and the forest path continues 
beyond that point that is on the western side of the ridge. No doubt about that as the 
letter of Corbett to Maggie (In Booths 2011 Ed pg 244) also confirms (letter to Maggie 
dated the 11th April 1930) the hunt took place on the other side of the ridge; we will 
come back to this a little later. Also, Byrne’s rock is only some 800 metres from the 
Kala Agar Forest Bungalow, midway towards the crossing of the faces of the ridge. 
Therefore after Manfred took some shots and I did a video, we set off to our first real 
target: where the forest footpath joins the crossing of the northern and western faces 
of the Kala Agar ridge. 

The Crossing of the faces of the Kala Agar Range and Beyond 

The footpath seemed interminable. It went up and down in smooth gradients, 
winding and marrying every curve of the Kala Agar Range. Along this footpath now, 
the compass needle still refused to switch positions from north to west, even after we 
reached the extreme edge of the ridge, doubts were highly instilled even if Manfred 
told me that he had previously experienced this direction change a little further on 
the footpath where it curves along the extreme edge of the ridge. Then finally when 
my counts had reached 780 metres (from Byrnes rock) or so, and just when I was 
about to say we had gone too further, Manfred announces the incredible: Here, he 
says, the compass needle changes direction along this curve. Now, there were not, to 
my knowledge, another place along this footpath where the compass needle would 
have done this and still it did it just here, where we were standing. This position shall 
be referred as from now as the ‘compass-crossing’. 

Corbett mentions in “Man-Eaters of Kumaon” saying: 

“. . .when at a point a mile from the bungalow, where the road crosses a ridge 1 and 
goes from the north to the west face of the Kala Agar range...” and later: 

“A footpath taking off close to where we had been sitting, went down the hill to 
the valley below and zigzagged up the opposite pine-clad slope to join the forest road 
two miles further down.” 

Now, the view of the landscape which were previously absent in our eyesight, be- 
ing too focused on either books or compass, was being scrutinized for the first time 
and the first things we noticed were the pine-clad slopes with sparsely wooded pine 
trees scattered on both slopes of an adjacent ridge running almost perpendicularly 
with the western face of the Kala Agar ridge. Here were two descriptions which, we 
thought back at that time in 2012, would have matched Corbett’s writings perfectly. 
Much to our satisfaction indeed, we stopped under a tree shade for a much deserved 
smoke, while we did not talk but only two pair of eyes scanning every square metre 

1 This ridge we found was adjacent to the forest road at right angles to it and is hereinafter referred to 
as the ‘adjacent ridge’. 


30 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


of the landscape which appeared in our view range to resolve our focus to discover 
other clues. 

The footpath paradox - Which was the original footpath Corbett 

talks about? 

What was quite obvious in our immediate view was a footpath junction in front of 
us. The forest road from where we came continued along the western face of the Kala 
Agar range but some 100 metres from where we were (compass-crossing), it perpen- 
dicularly joins a footpath on the crest of the adjacent ridge and we saw a number of 
people using it to go down further in the direction of Chamoli. One of these persons 
coming up and engaging on the road to Kala Agar was questioned and confirmed 
that the footpath he was coming lead to Chamoli. At the junction, there is a burning 
‘ghat’ (for cremation) on the left of the road. The footpath along the adjacent ridge, 
determined later when we went further down, meets the forest road a few miles at the 
point where the adjacent ridge dies out in the valley below and therefore the forest 
road also lead to Chamoli but on a much longer route. 

The footpath along the adjacent ridge is not straight: the crest on which it stands 
is winding, so it is a ‘zigzagged’ path along the crest and goes so for about 2-3 km 
until it reaches the valley below. Compare the previous statement with the fragment 
of Corbett’s description of ‘his’ footpath as given earlier coupled with the fact that 
the adjacent ridge is sparsely wooded with pine trees on each side of it and you’ll 
understand why we made a mistake by choosing to go along this way. Obviously, 
Corbett was talking of another footpath which continued down the Kala Agar range 
and zigzagged up to the opposite slope to join the main forest road below the valley 
to Chamoli. This footpath, disused since long and non-existent now, as our guide from 
Kala Agar village pointed to us in 2014, was mistaken by us (Manfred and I) in 2012 
as being the path along the adjacent ridge. In 2012, this cost us half a day of rough 
dangerous trekking for almost nothing. 

A dry nullah is easily observed from the adjacent ridge crossing the forest road. 
Very close to that junction, if one takes the footpath along the adjacent ridge, the 
ravine of this first nullah starts. By matching Corbett’s description as follows: 

“A footpath taking off close to where we had been sitting [near the compass cross- 
ing]...” 

After 6 hours of hard and rough trekking in 2014, Manfred, very courageously, 
attempted this steep descent while I followed him reluctantly. The end-result, despite 
being dissatisfying since we suspected it for being the ravine which Corbett took to 
collect the eggs and subsequently killing the tigress, helped us to understand that 
this nullah was very probably and almost a certain possibility that it was an ancient 
footpath. In fact this nullah has a strange course, its water course, seems to go level 
at first almost parallel to the forest road and then it goes down steeply. The course of 


THE CHOWGARH TIGRESS’S GIANT SLATE 


31 


the water that washes it every monsoon, showed it goes down the valley and connects 
with the forest road below while the start of its course is not a water course. Although 
we should not confound the old footpath trace with the actual water path, the start of 
this nullah could well have been the start of the old footpath connecting Kala Agar to 
Chamoli without passing through Dharampani. 

After April 2014, when now we had full knowledge of the places thanks to a local 
guide of Kala Agar village, Girdar Singh, the picture comes clear now. The actual route 
of the forest road is shown in the sketch map (see the sketch). At one point, there is 
a junction to Saryapani from where our guide Kamal, in 2014, brought us water, then 
the road continues towards Dharampani before engaging steeply downhill towards 
the valley below. I strongly suspect Corbett’s original footpath to have been the dry 
nullah parallel to the now-forest road’s route and connecting to another footpath 
which is 100 metres approximately after the Saryapani junction. In 1930, the footpath 
was, according to me, used by people who wished to go directly to the valley below 
to Chamoli instead of taking the detour to Dharampani. Such knowledge we did not 
have in 2012, Manfred and myself. 

Dry Nullahs, Pine Trees and the Wrongly Attributed Slate of 2012 

Now, on the false track, which we were in 2012, there was another problem; the 
face (southern) of the adjacent ridge which leads steeply to the valley below, is sparse- 
ly wooded with pine but has no undergrowth or jungle-type trees, whereas Corbett 
suggested the latter (in the form of oak trees where the Chamoli boy was killed on 
the 25th of February 1930). But positively, it had several dry nullahs running down 
the valley below. Closer examination reveals that the undergrowth is regularly burned 
and now the ground supports only turf grass, which regenerates quickly after burn- 
ing and that the pine trees seems to have been planted by man because they follow a 
pattern and that they all bear marks of bleeding on them. Some even have cups still 
attached to them. 

For those unacquainted with forest farming, it is useful to tell that trees falling 
under the needle-leaf family are suppliers of the precious pine oil or resin, a fuel. The 
bark is peeled one-metre above the root and for approximately half metre higher up 
and the naked trunk is helicoidally lacerated to form pathways for the pine oil to drip 
slowly but surely along them and at the base of the helicoids path, tin cans are attached 
to the trunk to collect the oil. This process is called trunk bleeding and sometimes 
‘tapping’ also. 

The first dry nullah encountered near the junction of the adjacent ridge and the 
forest road, which we said could easily have been the original footpath that Corbett 
talks of, was only some 10-15 metres from the junction. To negotiate it, would have 
been easy but for the absence of foothold. This was a big problem for us, because 
the slope on this side of the ridge deprived of undergrowth provided no support for 


32 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


engaging downslope along its steep gradient except the scattered pine trunks. It is at 
that time I regretted for not having told the driver to send for a search party if he 
sees us taking abnormally longer time to get back. At this point, to concert between 
myself and Manfred became necessary, for we knew awfully well that we were about to 
take more risk than we thought before coming here. But without invoking what were 
the risks, we ultimately decided that there was no point of standing where we were, 
where no further conclusions can be drawn, and that we needed to go further down. 

The first dry nullah we found went too steep down the valley and it was discarded. 
We therefore selected a more appropriate place for a descent and sometimes walking 
on all fours; we managed some 50 metres downslope and reached a place where a 
second dry nullah could be seen. Between the first dry nullah and the second one is 
the only piece of flat ground we had crossed but it is hardly 30 metres wide. Now we 
were between two dry nullahs and none of them had steep banks, which would be 
our next criteria. My bag, containing two books, a heavy purse, a camera and our only 
bottle of water, whose weight, after two and a half hours, was already beginning to tell 
on my shoulders, was also very encumbering for this type of descent and I ought to 
be more careful and a quick look at Manfred following closely, revealed that he was 
also, at times, in difficulty. 

Some hairpins cut through the compact soil presumably by the pine-oil collectors, 
helped easing the gradients, and yet despite being sometimes only half-foot wide, 
where one needs to stand legs wide open, they were necessary otherwise we would 
not have reached even 10 metres down. The second nullah would need to be crossed 
because we found a flatter patch next to it, and as we approached the nullahs bed, an 
overhanging rock came into sight. This was at first thought for having been the rock 
Corbett says he had taken a position when he suddenly became aware the tigress had 
arrived: 

“..I then took up a position on a rock, about four feet high, on the lower edge of the 
open ground. Beyond the rock the hill fell steeply away to the valley below.” and later, 

“. . .while I stood on the rock smoking, with the rifle in the hollow of my left arm, 
when all at once, I became aware that the man-eater had arrived...” 

But because its size was not fitting and absence of other features mentioned by 
Corbett, we discounted its presence. 

Anyway, while going parallel to the path on the crest of the adjacent ridge, while 
negotiating dangerous downslopes, after crossing the second nullah, we arrived at a 
third dry nullah, whose bed enters a deep ravine, some 50-60 metres from the footpath 
and some 100 metres from the small flat ground near the forest footpath junction. This 
third dry nullah had the steepest bed and its ravine is evocative because it is made up 
of solid rock walls with many cavities on the walls, ideal for bird nesting (sic!). It is 
this dry nullah that we decided to devote the most of our attention. 


THE CHOWGARH TIGRESS’S GIANT SLATE 


33 


To investigate it in all its proportions, one needed to go all along its bed, which 
was difficult though because of its steepness at some places, but another option was 
to go parallel to it and go as close to it wherever possible or permitted by smoother 
gradients and to cross its sandy bed at the maximum possible places and go along 
the bed until it is no longer practicable. This we would be able to achieve with much 
difficulty and a little less than an hour after we had been scanning this third dry nullah, 
where evocative displays have been found such as the smooth rock glissade, Manfred 
who was on the opposite bank (the more westerly one) exclaimed “HERE!!!” I was on 
the nearer bank and was taking pictures of the smooth rock glissade when Manfred 
called and I had been on a very uncomfortable position, but I managed to scramble 
through and get Manfred in sight. 

“Here, looks like a Giant Slate to me...” Manfred added. Pointing his fingers fur- 
ther down the nullahs bed, some 15 metres away, but I was out of sight range because 
I was behind a very high boulder lump some 25 metres high (as measured from the 
nullah bed). To be able to get a glimpse, it would be necessary to circumvent the 
boulder pile and get further downslope. But as a matter of necessity, when excitement 
takes over self-preservation instincts, I cannot explain how I came down to a point 
where now Manfred was standing clearly in my sight range on the opposite bank and 
some 15 metres down from where I was standing but could not go any further down 
was the “Giant Slate”. Therefore I would need to go on the other bank to be able to 
get further down. Manfred had already started a very risky descent when after some 
15 minutes I managed to reach the other bank. While I was taking much time to try 
different paths to go down, Manfred had already reached the safety of the sandy bank 
below and sitting near to the Giant Slate, he was once more going through “Man-eaters 
of Kumaon”. When I finally reached down, we took pictures and approximate mea- 
surements. You already know now that it was not the slate of the Chowgarh tigress 
but at that time in 2012 we were not sure. So we made our auto-criticicm and debate. 

The 2012 Slate - The debate and why we came back in 2014 

A series of points made for and against the validity of the 2012 slate had been 
originally discussed and is again proposed here so that you know how critical we were 
about the finding. Of course, there exists the original mistake of the footpath, but it’s 
just to let you see we did not try to convince anyone. 

For’s 

1. The place where the compass needle turns from the Forest Bungalow (depending 
on which route or path you take) is roughly 1400 or 1500 metres, nearly a mile as 
Corbett describes. 

2. From that point, where Corbett met the firewood collecting party, to the oak thicket 
down the valley is 400 metres, where the Chamoli boy was killed, or 500 yards as 
Corbett describes. 


34 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


3. The footpath close to where Corbett was sitting (Compass crossing) zigzags downhill 
(an original mistake) on the adjacent ridge and roughly 3kms (or 2 miles) below 
in the valley, joins the forest footpath or forest road, whose in turn had run on the 
western face of the Kala Agar ridge and approximately 1.5kms (or lmile) it turns 
down the valley and continues along the valley bed for another 1.5 to 2 kms to join 
the other path (The mistake was that Corbett said ‘zigzagged up) 

4. The forest footpath passes next to a small flat open ground and once it starts sloping 
down, borders the oak thicket about some 300 metres further downhill. 

5. The ravine of the 3rd dry nullah is roughly 100 metres from the small flat open 
ground. It has a bed some 3-4 metres wide and almost same as deep. It matches 
Corbett description except that now it is deeper since Corbett mentioned only 4-5 
feet deep (1.5 to 2 metres deep) 

6. Ravine walls is constituted with rocks having many hollows in the low lying ones, 
probably caused by swivelling of water and constitute ideal bird nests for the dry 
season. 

7. The ravine steep walls come to an end some 60-70 metres measured from the foot- 
path (of the adjacent ridge) and at this point shiny smooth rocks, at a steep gradient 
appears in the bed (most likely where Corbett glissades onto and the men jump and 
land side by side to him) 

8. Just after the first steep smooth shiny rocks bed, to the left of it (in relation to going 
down) there is a remnant of assembled pile of boulders or big rocks now overgrown 
with weeds and grass, which you hardly see the rocks unless you come very near to it. 

9. Along 20 metres after the first glissade (including the second glissade in this dis- 
tance) lies the flat sandy bed now scattered with broken rocks also everywhere. 

10. At the end of the flat sandy bed (after the second glissade), itself some 15 metres 
long and 3-4 metres wide, there is the Giant Slate on the left bank of the ravine (in 
relation of going down) . 

11. A natural boundary with the slate behind it (in relation of going down) is a deeper 
and steeper fall than the two glissades described above and virtually impossible to 
negotiate further down. 

12. The slate is about fifteen feet high and 2 to a maximum of 2.5 feet thick at some 
places and is always leaning out as Corbett described. 

13. The face of the slate is quite smooth though broken with cracks everywhere. 

Against: 

1. Just after the first glissade , to its right (in relation of going down), the bank seems 
eroded and there is not “a wall of rock slightly leaning over the ravine some 15 feet 
high” which Corbett describes. 

2. The sandy bed after the first glissade is very eroded at certain places and some 3-4 
metres down, a second glissade appears. This second glissade is non-existent in 
Corbetts writings. Of course, this could be the darkest point: that second glissade, 
3-4 metres after the first glissade (steeper less long one). 


THE CHOWGARH TIGRESS’S GIANT SLATE 


35 


3. The slate is on the left side of the bank in relation to going down (!) Now if we refer to 
Corbett description, he describes the slates to be on the right. Second darkest point, 
because Corbett could have been describing the slate after having gone round it. 

4. Opposite the Slate the bank is no longer "... scoured out steep bank also some 15 
feet high...” like Corbett described, not even a remnant. 

5. Corbett ends his account by saying that he puts a cross on the Kumaon map “2 miles 
to the west of the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow” to indicate the position where the 
Chowgarh tigress is accounted for. Now a birds eye view (a mental one from me) 
of roughly 3 kms from the bungalow brings us much further to our proposed spot 
for the slate, more than a kilometre away, which anyway does not match Corbetts 
earlier description of how he got there from the bungalow. If Corbett meant road 
length instead of bird’s flight, then the spot is about 2.5 kms now less than the 2 miles. 

You should not count the number of for’s and compare with the number of against’s 
(less numerous). If you assign ratings (or marks) per comment, depending on your 
appreciation, you might end up like us for a conclusion we made in 2012: There is 
a chance that this rock is the Chowgarh slate, but only until we do not find a more 
suitable candidate. Since we did not publish the 2012 findings, it is good also to read 
the recommendations we made for it: 

Our only certainty lied up to the point where the Kala Agar forest footpath crosses 
an adjacent ridge. At this point, the footpath goes straight down the western face of 
the Kala Agar ridge into the valley below and another footpath goes from this junction 
along the crest of the adjacent ridge where it meets the first footpath down the valley 
further. It is along this footpath which runs along the crest of the adjacent ridge that 
our investigation has been carried and that is why we had exchanged views on if we 
ought to have gone straight or not. Moreover, Manfred advised us when would wish 
to make further investigation to continue straight along the path and search the pres- 
ence of a ravine or relics of one along this path, which in 2012, our eyes had carefully 
scrutinized for and did not see. That was the main reason we did not investigate on 
this side in 2012 because it seemed in slight controversy with the last italics quote 
from Corbett’s writings because of the lack of the ravine: 

"About a hundred yards along the path I came to a ravine. On the 
far side of this the path entered very heavy undergrowth, and as it 
was inadvisable to go into thick cover with two men following me, I 
decided to take to the ravine, follow it down to its junction with 
the valley, work up the valley and..." 


Epilogue of the 2012 Trip - the Forest House Attendant 

Returning after a very tiring climb back, we arrived at Kala Agar at the junction 
near Byrne’s rock near the first habitations, when suddenly we met a man who clearly 
had been searching for us, his sigh of relief on seeing us betrayed him. He presented 
himself as the Government servant in charge of the Forest bungalow and said two boys 


36 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


came to fetch him and told him there were visitors expecting him at the bungalow. 
He added that he came as quickly as possible and after searching to the point at the 
extreme edge of the Kala Agar ridge had concluded that we had gone down and he had 
patiently waited for us to return for he knew there was a car waiting for us on the road. 

When questioned about the Forest bungalows, he explains that the newest building 
dates from 1956 (which we saw but was unsure if it was the date of erection or cessa- 
tion) and surprisingly enough, the one which I suspected to be the old forest bungalow 
is said by him to have been erected in 1925. He tells me, it is the bungalow which the 
District Commissioner (Most probably Graham Vivian and his wife Norah) stayed 
during the Chowgarh tigress hunt. He relates to me that the District Commissioner 
sat over a human kill roughly at the place where the Byrne’s rock is (at least he points 
in that direction and says almost along the forest road), but they were unsuccessful 
and according to him Corbett came later and was successful and still today villagers 
show a rock very near to Peter Byrne’s rock where according to them the Chowgarh 
tigress was shot. 

Manfred recalls this place, where four years earlier he had seen and villagers told 
him that animal bones are still found there, but no Corbett description matches with 
it. Booth recalls in his book that the Vivians’ (both ‘Ham’ and Norah) unsuccessful 
attempt as happening on the 21st March 1930 and Jim Corbett arriving on the 23rd 
when the body had already been removed. Therefore it could not be that place. A visi- 
tor’s log book dating from the 1930’s and seen four years earlier by Manfred shown to 
him by the predecessor of our kind forest bungalow attendant, had not been brought 
by him, adding that this book obtained in the old bungalow of 1925 had the names 
of the district officials who had come on duty to this bungalow. Manfred remembers 
the name of Stiffe (a deputy commissioner of Garhwal and Almora) and possibly a 
signature of Ibbotson (not clear because of the fading ink and yellowing paper) in- 
scribed in that log book. 

The forest bungalow attendant was thanked for his invaluable help in asserting 
the date and original spot of the forest bungalow and recalling the Vivians’ incident. 
We reached for our car and after a much sought-after tea break with the girls and our 
driver at the grocery-tea shop, and an unsuccessful attempt to drive to Chamoli to 
investigate about the boy killed on the 25th February 1930 (the road was too broken), 
we decided to drive, although it was quite late, to Dalkhania (7 victims) via Padam- 
puri (2 victims) and the Nandhour Valley some 19 kms away to investigate for other 
protagonists of the Chowgarh tigress story. 

April 2014 - The first day 

One cannot see a ravine unless you look for one; we had diverging views about 
where to start from when we came back in April 2014 this time in a group of four 
comprising myself, Priyvrat, Dr Jordania and Manfred. Despite the fact that we were 


THE CHOWGARH TIGRESS’S GIANT SLATE 


37 


now confident that in 2012, we were at the wrong place, I’m not sure what my other 
friends wanted first: to disprove the 2012 finding or to hope of seeing a better candidate 
on this side of the adjacent ridge. By the most natural human nature, the majority of 
the group, seeing plenty of dry nullahs’ ravines on the adjacent ridge, proposed to go 
along that direction first when we started our journey. I followed while muttering to 
them to look for ravines on the forest road rather. 

I will omit details, repetitive of the 2012 trip, which led us to the compass-crossing 
point, except perhaps to tell you on the eve of the exploration of the Kala Agar area, 
we had camped near the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow. And that, the kind bungalow 
attendant came to us showing the log book we did not see in 2012 and that I was 
suffering from a very allergic reaction due to the sting of a nettle plant (which the hill 
people call ‘beechoo’ grass meaning scorpion grass) which left my hand very numb 
and difficult to use a pen to write notes. 

Flowever that may be, we were still on the adjacent ridge flank which were search- 
ing back in 2012. This time we did not overlook any of the dry nullahs except for the 
first one for which Manfred duly made amends later in the afternoon. We were on an 
unsuccessful hunt, triangulating the whole ridge’s slope, until we broke in two parties. 
Priyvrat wanted to look further down and took a villager with him and Dr Jordania, 
Manfred and I tried to take a nullah and follow its course to the valley below. But we 
did not succeed to go down because at one point, we tried to estimate the distance 
from the opposite slope of the valley to where we were because Corbett wrote: 

"...by crossing the valley and going up the opposite slope I should 
be able to overlook the whole hillside on which the buffalo was teth- 
ered. The shot if I did get one would be a long one from two to three 
hundred yards..." 

200 to 300 yards from the opposite slope, was the area spot we were searching of 
now. While being unsure of the method we could achieve of measuring this, because 
the terrain did not permit it as a gift, we tried to go at a position nearer to the forest 
road at the point where it meets the valley below and work our way up and try to look 
for such distance as Corbett mentions. Many times we reached places which would 
have fit the “open patch of ground” that Corbett describes, but other details did not 
match. We did arrive at a couple of places also (or rather a line linking places) where 
the 200-300 yards would correspond but this time we did not find a suitable ravine 
with a slate. 

We had just decided to take our mid-day lunch (at about 14.30) when we saw our 
other half of the party with Priyvrat signalling us from far ahead. We met at a shady 
place and Priyvrat told us there was nothing to be found further down as from the 3rd 
nullah and that now he wanted to see the 2012 slate since they did not see anything 
further down as per our initial description of 2012. While the cook was warming our 
lunch, our main guide Kamal Bisth (whom you’ll meet many times in the trip diary) 
tells us that Girdar Singh (the guide from Kala Agar village) has been able to contact 


38 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


an elderly villager of Kala Agar of over 80 years old who is in New Delhi by phone 
and has been given the particulars of the place where the Chowgarh tigress was shot 
by the old man. 

That was too good to be true. Even Kamal who is an experienced guide of the 
Kumaon hills doubted because he said, there are so many such claims now that people 
who even don’t know Corbett or his stories come up with some titbits about places 
connected to his hunts. But that would not cost us much, since we were already in 
the area. When I learnt from Girdar, now that he had seated next me for a smoke, 
that the place’s description can only be found from the forest road, I could have said: 
Bingo! But since Kamal asked to express reserves, I refrained from being overjoyed. 
But there was one reason from being satisfied; at last we were heading on that very 
forest road which I wanted to investigate in the first place. 

When lunch was over and we followed Girdar to the forest road across two dry 
nullahs, we still had to climb the forest road uphill until he asks us to enter a footpath 
following him. What I had on my mind and perhaps my friends too, was to see a giant 
school slate in the very sense of the meaning. Therefore when Girdar brought us to a 
rough rock, not rectangular as a slate, and no directly visible details connected such 
as worn rocks, smooth as glass, sandy bed etc. . ., I don’t think anyone of us even took 
a photo. Moreover, the rock had an awkward inclination. We even saw a better candi- 
date for a slate behind the rock which Girdar led us to, but here too was the absence 
of details and it was a stand-alone rock not in the bed of a ravine. Disappointed as 
we were, we used the location as a starting place to look for candidates of a slate with 
the dimensions Corbett gave in the book. The rest of the day was spent as such and 
at our last attempt, Manfred, in solo, then I reluctantly followed, went to investigate 
the first nullah with the mitigating results which have already been told. 

Day 2 - April 2014, how come we did not measure Girdar’s rock? 

This question we could not answer on the night of the 14th April 2014 while we 
were at our camp near the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow. Dr Jordania agreed with me 
that we should have this done the next day because else we would not have the op- 
portunity again since we were leaving for Dalkania on the 15th. Manfred, meanwhile 
with Priyvrat decided to split into a second group and go to the northern face of the 
adjacent ridge, a region no one of us explored. The reason was that Manfred, I think 
we did not agree then, thought that this slope was to the west of the Kala Agar range; 
a discussion we still had the next day when we were again there. However that may be, 
we split and while Manfred with Priyvrat had a new terrain to explore, Dr Jordania and 
I had only to take measurements of the rock which Girdar showed us the previous day. 

I don’t have an account of Manfred and Priyvrat’s findings, they said to us they 
have had a potential candidate, possible but not probable. Anyway, Dr Jordania and I 


THE CHOWGARH TIGRESS’S GIANT SLATE 


39 


together with two independent witnesses (Kamal Bisth and Girdar Singh) or should I 
say two independent measurers because they took the measurements. Here they are: 

1. The proposed spot (area around the rock) is approximately some 60 to 65 yards 
up-ravine (measured by strides not tape) to the origin of the ravine, that is the 
Kala Agar-Dharampani road. A side ravine dominates this ravine, most probably 
created by the collapse of the bank wall of the original ravine with the result that 
the old source of the ravine which it takes at the forest road is dysfunctional, and is 
overgrown by bushes and not seen from the road. 

2. The slate, inclined outwards the bank of the ravine awkwardly, was measured by 
Dr Jordania and me as being: 14 feet high; 10 feet wide and 2 feet thick at the base. 
Kamal and Girdar took the measuring tape and they recorded: 14.5 feet high; 10 
feet wide and 2 feet thick at the base. 

3. To measure the steep bank in front of the slate, which was not possible along its 
length, a trigonometrical measure was made: At an elevation of approximately 60 de- 
grees, the hypotenuse was 17feet. This gives us a height of approximately 14-15feet. 

4. There is a bed of rocks in front of the slate which go deep down - too deep to mea- 
sure in fact, while from the ravine entrance towards the slate, we encounter a less 
steep bed of rock before it enters a flat bed, at the end of it and to its right, is the 
slate. The less steep bed of rock is nearly the same height as the bank we measured, 
that is 14-15 feet high above the flat bed. 

5. The width of the flat bed enclosed by the steep bank, the steep bed of rocks and the 
slate was measured by Kamal and Girdar to be 11 feet wide and 22 feet long. 

6. Again as we were back in 2012, we are not advocating for or against this rock to 
be presented as an official discovery of the Chowgarh slate. This is for you reader 
to do, that is to compare what we found with what Corbett wrote in the Chowgarh 
chapter in Man-Eaters of Kumaon. So the digression ends here. 

What we are certain about - 2012 and 2014 

In 2012 we were certain only about the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow and the Forest 
road till it crosses a ridge where the north face meets the west face of the Kala Agar 
Range. In 2014, a further advance was made by us in that we managed to confirm that 
the footpath Corbett tells so much about is NOT on the crest of the adjacent ridge 
like we suspected back in 2012. 

This footpath is not the continuity of the forest road beyond the compass crossing 
point. The letter of Corbett to Maggie in Booths 2011 edition page 244 throws some 
light, in some of its fragments: 

“...at three O’clock this afternoon, I set out to tie a katra up at Saryapani where I 
have been tying up since 31st. On the way out, instead of going to Saryapani turned 
down the forest track with the intention of tying the katra up where the Chamoli boy 
was killed on the 25th February. . .” and later; 

“Anyway, the men had heard nothing, so we left the katra, to go up the zig-zag 
track to Dharampani where the Vivian’s and I sat one evening...” and later 


40 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


“After going a few yards, I came to a deep nala. . followed by . .Anyway I decided 
to go down the nala and look for tracks where it joined the main ravine...” 

We therefore confirm having found the junction at Saryapani (about 450m from 
the compass crossing along the forest road) and where the forest road leaves this junc- 
tion, it goes towards Dharampani and Chamoli. We also found a shortcut path (Cor- 
bett calls it forest track in the citation above), just some 100 metres after the junction. 
This goes down the valley to Chamoli without having to pass through Dharampani. 

The zig zag track to Dharampani is actually the forest road which leaves the 
Saryapani junction and goes up the opposite slope in a zig zag (hairpins). This forest 
road also continues and joins the forest track (footpath) down the valley below and 
goes to Chamoli. 

If Corbett eventually found a nala (nullah) on this zig zag track to Dharampani, 
which we identified as a ravine entrance then we were there or at least we were close 
there (within 100 metres). The footpath which Girdar leads us just after leaving the 
Saryapani junction is to be the forest track to Chamoli since it leads the way to the 
valley below - there could not have been two of these path or track. 

According to our sightings on the terrain there, no other ravine entrance (deep 
nala) are in the close vicinity of the Saryapani junction. Moreover, not advocating our 
find, in all impartiality, the only rock fitting the description of the slate and found 60 
yards (from Man-Eaters of Kumaon) from the Dharampani road (Booth) in a nullah 
(or ravine) was Girdar s rock, which till a better candidate for a slate is discovered, will 
be the Chowgarh slate 2 . A number of photos and videos are available and two-hand 
drawn sketches of the region are supplied with this paper. (See the associated sketch 
and photos.) 


2 It was told to Priyvrat at a later date that the place referred to As ‘Dharampani’ by Corbett in his letter, 
as also in this chapter, is infact called ‘Dharapani’ by locals. 


Thak tigress killing site 


41 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

I read Jim Corbetts “Man-Eaters of Kumaon” for the first time in my early teenage 
years, and I was profoundly moved by the stories and by the personality of Corbett. 
I can say that despite my lifelong love for reading and the large amount of books I’ve 
read, I have never been so impressed by any other book. The story of Thak tigress 
was my favourite. Not because it was the last “man-eater story” of the book that I did 
not want to end reading, but because of the sheer dramatic tension of the story and 
because of Corbetts writing style. 

Actually, all that Corbett did was to write in rich detail what happened during 
this hunt, at the Indian-Nepalese border, in October-November 1938. Corbett had 
never been so close to conceding defeat in his 32-year career of shooting man-eaters, 
as this. During the whole hunt and pursuit he could not manage to see the man-eater 
even once. On the contrary, it was the tigress who was stalking Corbett, and he could 
have easily fallen a victim of the clever tigress on a number of occasions. Exhausted 
and depressed, on November the 30th, during the last minutes of the daylight Corbett 
conceded a defeat. He collected his men and his two goats he was using as bait, and 
started the 3 km walk back to the village Chuka. Dejected, he planned to leave the 
region early next morning, leaving the task of killing the elusive man-eater to others, 
for the first time in his life. He was 63 years old and he felt it was time to quit. Still, 
on the way, Corbett heard the tigress’s mating call, and decided to try one last chance: 
to call up the tigress, mimicking the mating call of a male tiger. Knowing how clever 
his opponent was, Corbett did not have high hopes that the tigress would respond 
and come, but the tigress started answering and moving towards Corbett. This scene, 
that took place in the dying moments of the daylight of the November 30th, 1938, is 
a masterpiece of Corbett’s writing skill. He is able to keep readers on the edge of their 
seats, describing everything in detail: the expression of horror of his men as they hear 
the approaching tigress roar, his frantic search for a suitable meeting place, placing the 
terrorised men and goats, his precarious sitting position behind the rock, the route of 
the approaching tigress, and finally how he manages to shoot the tigress during the 
last seconds of the dwindling daylight, falling from the rock on the heads of his men 
and injuring his jaw from the recoil of the heavy rifle. When Corbett was writing the 
book “Man-Eaters of Kumaon” in 1943-44, this was the most recent man-eating tiger 
that he had killed, and he remembered all the details extremely vividly. 

In short, I was mesmerized. I liked the story so much, that in the 1980s, when I, 
as a lecturer in ethnomusicology, was teaching at the Tbilisi State Conservatory, I read 
the whole story to my conservatory students, musicians who had nothing to do with 
tigers or with conservation of nature. 


42 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


At that time I lived in the Soviet Union, in the Republic of Georgia (now an 
independent state), and the book I read was published in Georgian. While living in 
the extremely closed Soviet Union, I could not even dream of visiting India in order 
to see the actual place where this story took place. (By the way, Corbett’s books were 
translated and published in several languages of the former Soviet Union. I had read 
both Georgian and Russian translations.) 

Well, after few years of break-up of Soviet Union, I migrated to Australia. Soon 
I realized that in my new country traveling was not an unrealistic dream at all. So I 
started waiting for a convenient occasion to go to India, as I could not afford to or- 
ganise a holiday trip just to visit Corbett-places. Such occasion occurred when I was 
invited to an educational congress in Delhi in January 2011. So I secured a free week 
after the congress, and carefully planned my visit to the villages Chuka and Thak at 
the Nepalese border (the villages where the whole story took place). 

I had the book written by Peter Byrne, who had previously visited Corbetts hunt- 
ing places before writing popular book entitled “Shikari Sahib” (the book is also known 
under the name “Gentleman Hunter”). In this book Byrne tells stories of Corbett 
killing his man-eating tigers and leopards, and shows the photos of these sites. My 
dream was to go and to spend at least several hours at the place where the dramatic 
final showdown of the Thak man-eater took place. I actually wanted to read the whole 
story there, sitting at “the Rock”. If you are a Corbett fan, you can probably understand 
this desire 

It was then, in 2010, reading Corbett’s Thak story for possibly the hundredth time, 
and comparing it with Peter Byrne account of this hunt, that I noticed there were 
some inconsistencies between Corbett and Byrne accounts of this legendary hunt. 
According to Byrne, Corbett was not sitting on a narrow ledge of the rock, instead 
he was standing behind the rock. Also, according to Byrne, Corbett did not fall after 
shooting the tigress, and there was no word of him injuring his jaw from the recoil 
of the rifle. I also noticed that the rock, represented in Byrne’s book, was a different 
that one can imagine reading Corbett’s description. So a doubt emerged in my mind, 
that something was wrong. Possibly the Byrne’s rock was not the real place where the 
killing of the Thak tigress took place? Was this possible?.. 

It was also at this time when my tour operator sent me an account of another 
Corbett fan, Dr Manfred Waltl from Germany, who had a few years before me (in 
March 2007) been in this region and visited the Thak man-eater killing site. When I 
read Manfred’s vividly written account, my doubts grew even deeper, as on his tour 
Manfred was shown a different rock (not the Byrne rock) and according to him, none 
of the two rocks (the Byrne rock, and the new rock he was shown) was coinciding 
precisely with Corbett’s description. I contacted Manfred and before my trip we had 
an exchange of long emails about the rock with all the details. According to Manfred, 
Byrne’s rock was a much better candidate for the real rock, than the new rock, although 


THAK TIGRESS KILLING SITE 


43 


Byrne rock still had many inconsistencies with Corbett’s description. Finally, after 
reading Corbetts story many more times, and re-reading Manfred letters about both 
rocks he saw, I came to the conclusion, that the real rock was still not found. 

So my 2011 trip to India became a trip to find a legendary place of Jim Corbett’s 
last hunt. 

I started my trip after the congress to the villages Chuka and Thak with the single 
aim: to find the place of the last hunt of Jim Corbett 3 . 1 had five free days. As getting 
to this region needs a full day of trekking from the last motorized place (Thulli Gadh), 
and a day trekking to get back to camp, I had only three days to find the real rock 4 . 

Preparing for this task, I approached the task of finding this rock following a 
certain strategy of scientific inquiry. As I am an academic, this was natural for me. 
First of all, I worked out the most important methodological points of the search. My 
central premises were the following: 

(1) We must follow Corbett’ descriptions in every detail for several important 
reasons: 

(a) Corbett gives an incredibly detailed information about the rock, where it is, 
how far from the village, where the path is going, how he was sitting on it, how big 
was the ledge, where he placed his left hand, where he placed his right foot, how he 
was holding a gun, how he put his gun on the rounded top of the rock, how and why 
he used handkerchief, etc). 

(b) We should also remember that this story was the most recent hunting story he 
wrote in his book (hunting happened in the end of 1938, and his book “Man-eaters of 
Kumaon” was published in 1944), so his memories were very fresh. 

(c) Corbett also mentions several times in this story (and also in the story about 
the Talla-Desh man-eater) that he “knew every foot of the path between Chuka and 
Thak”. 

(d) As we know, while he was trying to track and kill the Thak tigress, the tigress 
also tried to track and kill him, following him almost all the time. So Corbett’s knowl- 
edge of this path was crucial for his own survival. That’s why, even when he heard the 
call of the tigress, and started calling her up, and when he was running down from 
the ridge to meet the tigress, he ALREADY knew that he was going to meet the tigress 
at this 4 feet high rock. 


3 The readers should note that the term “last hunt” is not literal - Corbett killed at least one more tiger 
in 1946 (a cattle lifter in Kaladhungi). We also know that Corbett also hunted lions in Africa, but this 
hunt for the Thak tigress was Corbett’s last hunt after a man-eating tiger, described by Corbett. 

4 Here I must say that for several weeks I was actually trying to find an Indian travel company who 
could take me to the villages Chuka and Thak by a jeep, as I was told that someone visited these 
villages by a motorized road. After several failed attempts to find such a company, I understood that 
the advice was not based on reality, and if I wanted to see these places, I had to walk very much like 
Corbett walked in the 1930s. 


44 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


(e) Corbett was known for his honesty, so it was absolutely impossible to accept 
(at least for me) that he made up some details of the story in order to make them 
more dramatic for the readers. 

So the general conclusion for me was very simple: to find the rock, I had to follow 
Corbett’s description very closely, in all the details. 

On the other hand, we must remember that: 

(2) Villagers of Thak (or Chuka) should not be considered a fully reliable 
source of the information about this rock for several reasons: 

(a) they were not present at the dramatic scene; the four people who were sitting 
behind and under Corbett, were Corbett’s own people from Nainital, who, according 
to Corbett words, have never been to these jungles before this trip. So these four people 
were not Thak (or Chuka) villagers; 

(b) Thak villagers were not even in their village (Thak), as after the last victim of 
the tigress was killed, they left the village, and only came back a couple of days after 
when the tigress was killed. The only person that was left nearby (in village Chuka) 
was the Thak headman; 

(c) After killing the tigress, Corbett left the region in few hours, early next morn- 
ing, not even letting Chuka villagers to see the killed tiger in the morning; Thak 
villagers were, as I mentioned above, in a more distant location; So Corbett did not 
even have time to go with the people of Thak or Chuka, to show and to tell them the 
details of the story during the daytime. 

(d) And finally, villagers showed Peter Byrne in 1975 one rock, and at least from 
2007 till 201 1 they were showing Corbett fans (including Manfred and myself) a dif- 
ferent rock, so their memory was far from perfect about this place; 

So, basically, my conclusion was that we must trust Corbett’s description and fol- 
low his words as close as possible in every detail. So Corbett’s writing was not only 
my primary source, it was my only source. 

I also acknowledged another very important point: we need to take into account, 
that in the past 73 years (1938-2011) some details of the rock and its surroundings 
could have changed, and it is important to know what COULD have changed, and 
what COULD NOT change. 

Here is what CANNOT change in the course of time: 

1. The place where the rock is -- the distance from the village, 

2. the basic rectangular shape of the place, 

3. the presence of the rock ridge in the middle of the rectangular field (stretching 
from south to northern part of the rectangular land), 

4. the position of the four foot high rock itself, on the Eastern side of the rect- 
angular field, 
the shape of the rock, 


5. 


TIIAK TIGRESS KILLING SITE 


45 


6. the presence of the ledge on the rock, its size and its orientation (also on the 
eastern side of the rock), and the way Corbett must have been sitting sideways 
on a narrow ledge should still be possible. 

7. Corbett also described in details where he put his feet, hands and the rifle on 
the “rounded top of the rock.” All thee details are very unlikely to change in 
the course of time of a few decades or even for centuries. 

Now let us discuss what CAN change: first of all, 

(1) The course of path from Thak to Chuka can change, and 

(2) Accumulation of earth and dry leaves could affect the path, or some places 

around the 4 feet high rock where Corbett killed the tigress. 

So, to do the proper investigation of all these details, I took a compass (to be sure 
of the South and East directions that Corbett amply gives in his stories), and also the 
measuring tape with me (to measure exact length of different rocks, ledges, falling 
spaces, etc...). In order to measure big distances, I was counting my steps from Thak 
village to the ridge, and from the ridge to the beginning of the flat rectangular land; 
I also counted steps from the beginning of the flat rectangular to the rock ridge on 
the rectangular land itself, and then from there to the place where the rock must be. 
I spent three hours on January 20th (one of my guides, Nar Singh was with me on 
that day, waiting for me some 50 metres away, sleeping near the “Peter Byrne rock”), 
and then two more hours on January 22nd (another guide, a Chuka villager, Hoshiar 
Singh, the son of Umaid Singh, was with me there, also waiting). In total I spent 5 
hours in the area and made all the detailed measurements of all possible rocks in the 
vicinity. To be sure of the distances I also counted my steps, and then I measured ex- 
actly how many centimetres I was roughly covering with my 10 steps, and made good 
estimates, so my measurements of the distances from the village to the ridge and to 
the rectangular piece of land must be quite accurate. 

Most importantly, I made a long list of the details (from Corbett writing), that the 
Corbett rock MUST coincide with: 

(1) Corbett rock must be on a rectangular piece of land, about 800 metres from 
the Thak village (quarter of mile from Thak village, plus another 400 yards) from 
Thak village; 

(2) Rectangular land must be about 40 yards wide (East-West direction) and about 
80 yards long (South-North direction); 

(3) At the end of the rectangular land (on the North side) there must be a steep 
rocky descent; 


46 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


(4) There must be a rock ridge in the middle of the rectangular land, starting in 
about 25 yards after the path enters the flat ground (when coming from the Southern 
end, from the village Thak). The ridge must be running from South to North; 

(5) The path from the Thak village should be going first from Thak on a steep ridge 
(400 metres), and then it should go down to the beginning of the flat rectangular land 
(about 350 metres); 

(6) The rock must be on the territory of the rectangular land, at the far right side 
of the rectangular land (South when looking from Thak); 

(7) It is very important to remember that the rock must be on the EASTERN side 
of the rectangular land; 

(8) The path must skirt around the rock and should go steeply down immediately 
after the rock; 

(9) Rock must be about 4 feet high; 

(10) Rock must have a ledge; 

(11) The ledge must be from the opposite side where from Corbett was expecting 
the tigress to appear: tigress was coming from the west, so the ridge must be from 
the eastern side. Corbett obviously did not want to be very exposed to the eyes of the 
tigress, so he was trying to hide his body behind the rock (Peter Byrne as a professional 
hunter was absolutely right on this point); 

(12) The ledge must be narrow, as Corbett was only able to sit sideways, and he 
was able to place only a part of his bottom on the ledge; 

(13) To keep himself steady, Corbett had to put his left hand on top of the rock; 

(14) The rock must have a rounded top where Corbett put his rifle. Corbett even 
put his handkerchief on the top of the rock to prevent the rifle sliding; 

(15) To keep himself more steady, Corbett stretched his right leg and touched the 
ground with his right foot; 

(16) Despite holding himself on three points (sitting sideways on the ledge, placing 
his left hand on the rock, and touching the ground with his right foot) Corbett was 
still sitting not very stably seated, and subsequently he was knocked from the ledge by 
the recoil of the first bullet; The recoil of the second bullet injured his jaw quite badly. 

(17) From his position Corbett had a problem of firing his rifle to the right (right 
from him) direction, as to fire in the right from him direction he would need to raise 
his heavy 450.400 rifle with his right hand only, aim and fire; 

(18) Corbett could not use his left hand to hold his rifle, he needed it to keep 
himself on the rock; 

(19) The path was approaching the rock from the left side (when looking from 
the rock); 

(20) There was a small hump on the path about 20 feet (6 metres) away from the 
rock, and Corbett was going to fire in the face of the tigress as soon as it appeared 
above this hump; 


TIIAK TIGRESS KILLING SITE 


47 


(21) Immediately behind the rock there must be a deep space where Corbett fell 
on top of his four men and two goats; 

(22) The space behind the rock for the fall must be about 10-12 feet deep; 

(23) The path from Thak should enter the rectangular flat ground from the South- 
ern side; 

(24) In 25 yards the path should reach the rock ridge which runs from South to 
North; 

(25) At the rock ridge, the path must bend to the right; 

(26) After bending to the right, the path should continue another 25 yards and 
must leave the rectangular land on the East (long) side, or as Corbett writes, at “far 
right side”, skirting around the 4 foot high rock; 

(27) There must be a space for scattered bushes on the left from the rock (Corbett 
found that if he laid down next to the rock on the path, the tigress could approach him 
through the scattered bushes without him seeing the tigress, or go around the rock 
from the right side from him). Corbett obviously wanted to conceal himself as much 
as he could from the tigress, that’s why he wanted to lie down, but after he found this 
was not effective and safe, he decided to sit behind the rock on the ledge, sitting very 
uncomfortably; 

(28) In his position, sitting on a ledge behind the rock, Corbett was naturally 
prepared to fire to the left direction only, and he was expecting the tigress to appear 
from the left side, the side from where the path was approaching the rock. This was 
the direction his gun was pointing at; 

(29) The tigress actually did not come on the path, as Corbett hoped. After going 
mad for not meeting her mate on the spot she was expecting him to be (she was at this 
moment behind the low ridge that was between her and Corbett, so Corbett could not 
see her), after Corbett made his last call (when they called together), she crossed the 
low ridge in front and bit right of the Corbett rock (Corbett describes her position of 
“one o’clock”), which meant she was a bit right from Corbett, an awkward direction 
for him to fire his rifle; 

(30) If the tigress continued the same direction, Corbett would be in a trouble, as 
it would be impossible for him to turn the gun on the top of the rock towards right 
and fire, or to lift a heavy rifle with one hand and fire, without the support of the rock; 

(31) The “half a dozen steps” the tigress made to her right after her last powerful 
roar that hit Corbett in the face (“and could have carried my hat...”) was a great luck 
for Corbett, as the tigress came more to the left side for Corbett, exactly the place 
where Corbett’s rifle was pointing; Otherwise, as Corbett writes, the story, “if written, 
would have had a different ending”... 

These were the details that I found in Corbett story that could help me to find the 
“correct rock” where this dramatic scene took place. So I was searching for the Corbett 
rock with ALL these details in my mind (actually, on the paper). As a scholar, I have 


48 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


a general principle in my research, that to make a positive identification, there must 
be no exceptions, no unexplained details. 

Now the most interesting part: after researching the place for several hours, which 
is the correct rock? 

The ‘Villager’s rock’ (the one that they were showing to Corbett fans for the last 
several years, including Manfred in 2007 and myself in 2011) cannot be the correct 
one. It fits only with couple of details, but does not fit with most of the details. Posi- 
tive details are that it is about 4 feet high, it is situated at the path, it has a ledge, and 
there is a deep place behind the ledge where Corbett could fall. There are many more 
details that the rock does not fit Corbett’s description: this rock is not in the right 
place to start with, not on the rectangular piece of the flat land, and the distance from 
the village to this rock is too short. The ledge in not on the opposite side of the rock 
where Corbett was waiting the tigress to approach from, and above all, the ledge is a 
way too wide (80 cm), so it is definitely not a “narrow ledge” where Corbett had to 
“sit sideways to place a part of his bottom on the ledge”. Two people can sit on this 
ledge side by side. Also, there is no place (and no need) for Corbett to place his left 
hand to hold himself steady on the rock, because the 80 cm ledge is a perfectly steady 
place to sit on; Also there is no place and no need for Corbett to put his rifle on the 
“rounded top of the rock”; also you can not stretch from this ledge your right foot 
to reach the ground. Possibly most importantly, from the practical point of view of a 
hunter, who was expecting the appearance of a man-eater, sitting on this rock would 
have been disastrous, as it was like sitting high on a stage. So on this rock Corbett 
would have been extremely exposed to the coming tigress, instead of hidden behind 
the rock as Corbett wanted and described. (Readers can see this rock on the photos 
and accompanying film- documentary about our trip to Kumaon.) 

So from Corbett’s description it is quite obvious that this rock, where tour guides 
had been taking Corbett fans during the last few years (including Manfred Waltl and 
myself), cannot be the correct rock which Corbett described in the story about Thak 
man-eater. 

Now let us discuss the rock that Chuka and Thak villagers showed to Peter Byrne 
on April 20, 1975 s . For simplicity I will be mentioning this rock as the “Peter Byrne’s 
rock”. This is the rock that Peter Byrne showed in his books, dedicated to Corbett 
hunting stories and places, and is known to many Corbett fans. It is important to re- 
member, that Peter did not do a special research for this place, he just believed what 
Thak and Chuka villagers told him when he was there in 1975. Fie did not compare 
the rock to Corbett description either, as he did not have the book with him. By the 

5 All these details are taken from Peter Byrne personal travel diary from his 1975 trip to Kumaon, the 
trip when he was shown Thak and Chuka man-eater’s killing sites (he saw both sites on April 20 th , 
1975). I am very grateful to Peter Byrne for sending me the pages of his diary and agreeing to use 
them in this chapter. According to Peter Byrne words, in his book “Shikari Sahib” this photo is dated 
as from 1995, which is a mistake) 


TIIAK TIGRESS KILLING SITE 


49 


way, in the book Shikari Sahib this black and white photo is dated as 1995, but Peter 
Byrne wrote to me this was a mistake (Peter Byrne’s letter of June 22, 2011). The cor- 
rect date, April 20, 1975, comes from Peter Byrne personal diary (courtesy of Peter 
Byrne). Peter’s diary even specifies the name of a Chuka villager, Buloka Singh, who 
was photographed on the rock. The site was later confirmed by Thak villagers (Thak 
was well populated in 1975), but still, there are still discrepancies with this rock and 
Corbett’s description. 

This rock is partly in a right place. I said “partly” because it is on the correct rect- 
angular piece of the land (the one that is 80 yards long and 40 yards wide, situated 
about 800 metres from the village). But the rock is on the wrong (northern) side of 
the rectangular land, not Eastern side, as Corbett described. The rock does have some 
sort of ledge, but it is totally impossible to sit on this ledge. And there is no need to 
sit on this ledge in the first place, as you can stand behind the rock. There are many 
more details which do not fit Corbett’s description. Apart from being on a wrong side 
of the rectangular, it is too far from the beginning of the rectangular flat place (almost 
at the very end of the rectangular flat land), there is no falling space behind the rock. 
It is also higher than the one described by Corbett (5 feet, not 4 feet). Also, even if 
you imagine yourself somehow sitting on the ledge (which is impossible), there is no 
place to put your rifle on the “rounded top of the rock”. Also, the ledge is from the 
wrong side, not the opposite side where the tigress was approaching from, so if Corbett 
was sitting there, he would have been directly exposed to the eyes of the tigress which 
would have had disastrous consequences for Corbett. Regarding Corbett’s words that 
he was sitting on the ledge, this is simply impossible on this rock. 

It is interesting, that in Byrne’s photos there are two possible positions of how Cor- 
bett was positioned on the rock: in one photo a Chuka villager (as mentioned above, 
Buloka Singh) is sitting on top of the rock (not on the ledge!). On another photo it is 
Byrne himself, photographed hidden behind the rock. Byrne, himself a professional 
hunter, chose the best position in case IF Corbett was to meet the tigress at this rock: 
behind the rock. But if we accept that Corbett was hidden behind the rock, then lots 
of details that Corbett wrote about his awkward sitting position on the rock must be 
totally wrong: how he was sitting sideways on the narrow ledge, with his right foot 
touching the ground, left hand stretched to hold on the top of the rounded rock, his 
rifle resting on a rounded top of the rock, and also falling after the shots from the ledge 
straight behind the rock, on the heads of his men and two goats etc. So if we accept 
that Byrne’s rock is the right one, we need to accept that Corbett made up plenty of 
details of his hunt, which, knowing Corbett’s personality, is absolutely impossible. In 
short, after seeing and examining the place for five hours, measuring all its parts, I 
became convinced that Byrne’s rock could not be the rock where Corbett concluded 
his hunting career of man-eaters. 


50 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


So neither of these two rocks can be the rock where Corbett killed the Thak 
man-eater. 

I believe the main reason why villagers showed the wrong rock to Byrne in 1975 
was primarily because THE COURSE OF PATH has CHANGED between 1938 (when 
hunting took place) and 1975 (when Byrne visited Thak). Corbett is very clear in his 
description that after reaching the rectangular piece of land, and going straight 25 
yards on the rectangular land, the path bends RIGHT just before the beginning of 
the rock ridge. 

Today (and in 1975) the path skirts around the rock ridge from the LEFT side 
and then continues straight to North, leaving the rock ridge on the right side. So the 
path changed, and today the Corbett rock cannot be seen from the contemporary path 
between Chuka and Thak. If we accept the idea, that the path has changed (and this 
is obvious from Corbett’s description), then everything falls in its place. So, we need 
to follow Corbett description to find the right course of the path, and after this, try to 
find the right rock on a long forgotten path. 

Both Manfred and myself agreed in the course of our long email exchange, that 
the new path that is currently running there has changed since the 1938. 

So I followed Corbetts vivid description in every detail, went on the right side 
from the rock ridge, and I believe I found the rock, where Corbett set when he shot 
and killed the Thak man-eater on November 30th, 1938. In the photo section you can 
see the photo of the rock, taken on January 20th 2010, the day when I saw this rock 
for the first time. 

This rock is exactly in the place as Corbett describes, and is coinciding with all the 
descriptions that Corbett provides in the story. But let us follow the course of events. 
As I was not rushing anywhere, I was checking directions and measuring everything 
with compass and with the measure tape. 

First of all I made sure that the “rectangular piece of flat land” the where the rock 
must be placed was the correct one. For this I counted the distance from the village 
to the ridge, and then from ridge to the rectangular land. I also checked with the 
compass where are the South-North-East -West sides (I suggest anyone who will be 
following Corbett footsteps to take compass, as Corbett is usually very specific about 
the directions). Everything was correct -- short sides of rectangular are the South and 
North sides, long ones -- East and West sides, and the path enters from the South part. 
Then I followed his further descriptions. Entering from the South end, and following 
the path, I counted 25 yards (in my counting, it was about 22 metres, which is about 
25 yards), and I came to the beginning of the rock ridge. Today, as I have already men- 
tioned, the path skirts the ridge from the left side, but according to Corbett’s words, 
the old path was bending to the right. So I followed Corbett’s words, and at the ridge I 
turned right, and went around the rock ridge. I went about another 30 metres and after 
few minutes of the search I found the rock which fitted Corbett description perfectly. 


TIIAK TIGRESS KILLING SITE 


51 


Or, let me say, “almost perfectly”. See more details here: 

The rock I found is in the right place (25 yards to the ridge, plus 30 metres right 
from the ridge to the East side of the rectangular piece of land), it is a right height (115 
cm today, or almost precisely 4 feet high, which easily can be a result of accumulation 
of the earth and dry leaves at the rock). From behind it is much higher (where the 
villagers and goats were positioned). It has a narrow (18 cm) ledge on the back of the 
rock (east side of the rock, opposite where the tigress was coming from as Corbett 
indicated -- tigress was coming from the western side), there is also a fall behind the 
rock, so the rock is much higher from behind than 4 feet. Corbett fell there after firing 
his rifle. Also, if you sit on the ledge, the only way to sit on it is to sit sideways, with 
your left side of your bottom on the ledge, and stretching your right foot to reach the 
ground to keep yourself steady (this is exactly as Corbett describes how he was sitting 
on the rock ledge); Also mind, that if you are not about 6 feet tall, you cannot reach 
the ground with your right foot, and in this case sitting on the ledge becomes virtually 
impossible. Also, your left hand must be stretched holding on the top of the rock, so 
you can keep yourself steady; and surely, there is also a “rounded top of the rock” 
in front of your chest to rest your rifle there, while waiting for the tigress to appear 
(Corbett placed his handkerchief on the rounded top to prevent slipping of the gun 
from the top of the rock, so I did as well). You can check these details on the photo 
of Hoshiar Sings sitting at the rock in Corbetts position. All these details coincide 
perfectly with Corbett’s description. 

There is also a bump from the rock on the old path 6 metres on the left from the 
rock (where Corbett was expecting the tigress to appear and to shot her in the face). 
There is a low ridge about 8-10 metres directly in from of the Corbett rock. It was 
behind this low ridge the tigress went mad after not finding a mate. And there is also 
a fall behind the rock, just under the ledge where Corbett was sitting. 

So everything fits perfectly, with the only one exception: the fall behind the rock 
is not as deep as Corbett describes. 

Corbett mentions 10-12 feet (about 3 - 3.5 metres), but today the fall is only about 
2 metres deep (about 7 feet). I measured the rock from all sides. From the front, from 
the side where the tigress was coming the rock is 1 15 cm high, from behind (where the 
ledge is and where there is a falling space where Corbett fell) the rock is 210 cm high 
(seven feet). The ledge (measured from behind), is on the height of 110 cm from the 
bottom). So the only detail that this rock does not coincide with Corbett’s description 
is that the falling space is not as deep as Corbett writes. 

To coincide with Corbett’s description perfectly, all 100%, I proposed that the 
falling space must have been in Corbett time at least about a meter deeper than it is 
now. Could this space have been deeper 72 years ago? I believe it could. 

The place of the fall is a kind of a nullah, which gradually goes down, and after 
some distance (about 10 metres) another rising piece of land is starting, and it is very 


52 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


possible that during the proceeding 72 years seasonal monsoon rains filled up the 
nullah with the earth, rocks and falling leaves (particularly as the new path was found 
and this side was left for good), so I proposed that the depth of the fall behind the 
rock was gradually, during the seven decades, filled up with the earth and falling rocks. 

To check this possibility, I checked the ground behind the rock, just under Cor- 
bett’s sitting place (under the ledge) on January 22. I proposed that in case if it was 
a solid rock, it would be impossible to imagine that 72 years ago it was a deeper fall 
there (solid rocks are much more stable than the earth), but in case if it was mostly 
a soft earth there, then it would be possible to have the deeper fall behind the rock 
in Corbett’s time, and it later decreased by about 1 meter or more during the past 72 
years, filled with earth and leaves during several decades. 

So, on my second visit on January 22, I dug the earth behind the Corbett rock, 
under the ledge, in the place where Corbett must have fallen on top of his men and 
goats. I did the digging with my pocket knife. I managed to dig a hole of about 40 cm 
deep, and I could clearly see that there was only soft earth, no solid rock. I took video 
of my initial digging effort. So I came to conclusion that the falling space behind the 
rock was deeper 72 years ago. My second and third visit to Thak (in 2012 and 2014) 
convinced me that my suggestion was correct. 

If the fall was deeper in Corbett’s time (which I believe was the case) then all the 
Corbett’s descriptions are coinciding with this rock: (1) how far it is from the Thak 
village, (2) where is the rectangular piece of land, (3) where is the rock, (4) where is 
the ledge, (5) how big is the ledge, (6) how you need to sit on the rock sideways (7) 
with your right foot touching the ground, (8) with your left hand holding on the top of 
the rock, and (9) putting the rifle on the top of the rounded rock, (10) with the space 
for the fall just behind the rock where Corbett placed his four men and two goats, 
(11) with a bump on the old path 6 metres from the rock, (12) with the low rock ridge 
in front on a distance to fit the dense bushes and then about 3 metres of more open 
ground. So everything is coinciding. Also, when you sit there on the narrow ledge, 
sideways, you also understand why Corbett could not turn his rifle to the right from 
his side, or to use his left hand to support his rifle: because he was sitting with his chest 
virtually against the face of rock, and he had no space to change his position. So we 
can say that absolutely all the details of Corbett descriptions are coinciding with this 
rock. With so many precise details, I believed this identification was as precise as the 
identification of somebody’s fingerprints. 

That’s why I became convinced that this rock, which I saw for the first time on 
January 20th, and around which I spent 5 hours measuring and studying the whole 
place (even digging the earth under the ledge) during 20th January and 22nd January, 
is the right one. After my measurements I can say that there is not a single detail that 
makes it impossible this to be the correct rock. Apart from my own estimate, all the 
members of our 2012 and 2014 parties had long conversations with detailed analysis 


THAK TIGRESS KILLING SITE 


53 


of Corbetts words, and plenty of measuring. All of us came to the firm conclusion 
that the rock identification is positive. 

The rock has couple of deep cracks from the front (western side), and a part of 
the rock on the right side is partly broken away (not affecting the part where Corbett 
was sitting). Parts of the rock and the ledge are now covered with green moss, and lots 
of big red ants lived there in 2011. Possibly the ants lived there 72 years ago as well, 
but Corbett does not mention them, because (1) it is unlikely that Corbett would pay 
attention to the ants when a roaring man-eater tiger was coming towards him, and (2) 
in the beginning of the night (it was already dark when Corbett set there) ants could 
have been already gone to sleep (and missed the dramatic show!) 6 . 

You can also see a photo of our 2012 party members, after we restored the deeper 
falling space behind the rock. You can see one of our Indian helpers sitting on the 
rock (like Corbett), and others are sitting behind the rock, like four horrified villagers 
and two goats were sitting on November 30, 1938. 

In 2012, during our group’s visit to this rock, we affixed the metal plate, com- 
memorating the site of the last hunt of man-eating tiger of the legendary hunter and 
conservationist, and dig behind the rock, to reveal the initial falling space behind the 
rock. Today the falling space is 3 metres deep. Possibly in 1938 it was even deeper, it 
is hard to tell (Corbett mentions “10-12 feet below me”). 

After coming back from India in 201 1, 1 informed Jerry Jaleel, the head of the Jim 
Corbett Foundation (in Edmonton, Canada) about the finding and sent him several 
photos of the newly found rock that I took. Jerry studied my photos and my descrip- 
tion in close detail, compared it with the Corbett story, and was very excited to con- 
clude this was definitely the right rock where Corbett killed the Thak man-eater. Fie 
soon released part of my text and couple of my photos in a special issue of the “Tiger 
Trails”, a journal of the Jim Corbett foundation. Jerry also placed two photos of the 
newly founded rock on Jim Corbett website together with comments. It were these 
photos, placed on the Jim Corbett website, that brought to me the attention of several 
other avid Corbett fans (Fernando Oliveira and Priyvrat Gadhvi, while for Kotecha it 
was a different story, too long to enumerate here), and gave us the idea to organise a 
new trip to the villages Chuka and Thak in April 2012. The book that you are reading 
is the result of this trip, and is written by the participants of the trip. You can read the 
whole story of our trip later in this book. 

If you want to visit Kumaon and want to find this rock, it is easier to start from 
Thak, you need to follow Corbetts description, follow the path to the ridge, then down 
from the ridge to the rectangular piece of land. On the rectangular piece of land you 
must turn right before the beginning of the rock ridge (instead of following the path 
and skirting the ridge from the left, as the path goes today). Then you will need to 

6 In April 2012, when our group visited the rock to reconstruct the falling space, the red ants were 
gone, instead, we found a big colony of big black ants living behind the rock, in the Corbett falling 
space. Most likely the dwellers at this historic rock change quite easily. 


54 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


go around the rock ridge, and continue about 30 metres. There you will be able to 
see the Corbett’s rock. Of course, today you can recognise the rock also for the metal 
plate that we affixed on the rock in 2012, in the naturally existing crack. The text on 
the plate is written in two languages, English and Hindi, and it reads: 

"This is the rock where on November 30th, 1938, in the dying sec- 
onds of daylight, the tigress known as the "Thak Man-eater" was shot 
in a dramatic encounter by Jim Corbett - India's Legendary hunter and 
pioneer conservationist. The tigress became a man-eater after she, 
still nursing two cubs, was wounded twice by poachers. On the 9th - 
12th of April 2012, admirers of Jim Corbett from different parts of 
the world, paid tribute to this great son of India, dedicated friend 
of tigers and humble servant of humanity." 

When I visited Thak in January 2011 there was one family in residence. Unfortu- 
nately, these people are not the old original Thak villagers, they are Chuka villagers. 
In fact, the head of family is Sundar Singh, Hoshiar Singhs brother, and Umaid Singh’s 
son 7 . As I understand, the Thak villagers abandoned the village for good in the first 
years of the 21st century, but the village is visited by Chuka villagers, who stay there 
sometimes for several months. I Believe this is better than to have Thak village com- 
pletely abandoned. Most of the Thak village is reverting to the jungle and it is not easy 
to walk the streets of the village today. In 2011 I was not even able to find the main 
road of the Thak that is clearly visible on Peter Byrne photos from 1975. In 2014, April 
23, Manfred and I visited Thak once again, and measured the “rectangular piece of 
land” to compare it with Corbett’s estimates. Its width was about 50 metres (Corbett 
- “40 yards”), it’s length was 105 metres (Corbett - “80 yards”). From the point where 
the old path was turning right (at this point the rock ridge starts) to the actual rock 
where the tigress was killed, is 33 metres (Corbett - “25 yards”). Interestingly, all the 
measurements of larger distances were given in Corbett account in conservative num- 
bers. Smaller distances are very precise. The height of the rock from the front (tigress’s 
view) is 115cm (Corbett - “about four feet), and the falling space today is about 3.20 
metres high (Corbett - “10-12 feet”). If you use the GPS for finding the rock, location 
of the rock on the map is 29° 11’093”N 80°14T32”E. 

One additional remark must be discussed about the place where Corbett and 
his four men heard the tigress calling for a mate. According to Corbett: “The path, 
as I have already mentioned, joins the ridge that runs down to Chuka a quarter of a 
mile from Thak, and when I now got to this spot where the ridge is only a few feet 
wide and from where a view is obtained of the two great ravines that run down to 
the Ladhya river, I heard the tigress call once and again across the valley on my left.” 
The current path from the Thak village runs on a side of the ridge, so on the left side 
of the path you can see nothing but the side of the ridge. In order to find the place 

7 Sundar Singh was 63 years old in 2011, his wife was Durga Devi, 50 years old, and they had three 
children, a daughter Claoti, she was 30 years old, sons Parvati Singh, 29, and Devsi Singh, 23. They 
also had another son, Barasi, who died some time ago. We met Sundar Singh in 2014. 


THAK TIGRESS KILLING SITE 


55 


Corbett is talking about, the place where Corbett heard the tigress calling, you need 
to climb the ridge, and from there you can see the “two great ravines that run down 
to the Ladhya River.” Most likely in 1938 the path from the Thak village was going (at 
least partially) on the top of the ridge. 

And at the very end of this chapter let me say a few words about the crack where 
we affixed the metal plate. The crack is very deep, and the whole right top section (if 
looked from the front, as the tigress saw the rock) is actually separated from the rock 
by this crack, so after some time the large section of the rock might fall off. When and 
why did this crack appear? If you sit behind the rock, on a narrow ledge, exactly in 
Corbetts position, your stretched left hand will naturally be placed on the top of the 
rock’s rounded head, exactly where the crack starts today. If this crack was there in 
1938, Corbett would have definitely used this crack to have a better grip on the rock, 
and possibly even he would have save himself from falling off the rock. But Corbett 
does not mention the existence of this crack. According to his words, his left hand was 
placed on the “rounded top of the rock”. So, most likely, the crack was not there, and 
it appeared after the November 30th 1938, during the last seven decades. 

We know that rocks can gradually disintegrate, but as a rule, this takes a very long 
time. Is it possible that there was any other, external factor that contributed to the ap- 
pearance of the crack? We know that a powerful physical shock, received by a rock, can 
sometimes break or intensify the natural processes of the rock disintegration. Bearing 
this idea in mind, I would like to propose that the appearance of the deep crack on the 
rock could possibly be a result of the dramatic hunting episode on November 30th, 
1938. More precisely I suggest that the crack possibly appeared partially as the result of 
the impact of the heavy rifle discharge, which was placed immediately on the rock top. 

It would be very hard to measure exactly the impact of such a shock on the solid 
rock, but some shock was certainly absorbed by the rock when Corbett fired his heavy 
rifle, 450/400. We know that the rifle was placed on the top of the rock, some two 
feet from where the crack starts today. Actually, Corbett made not one, but two shots 
from the 450/400 rifle, but I am still discussing only the first shot, as the first shot 
was made when the rifle was placed on the rock, but the second shot was made when 
Corbett was falling of the rock and the rifle was in the air (the recoil of the second 
shot hit violently Corbett in the jaw). So most likely only the first shot, made when 
the rifle was rested on the top of the rock, administered a physical shock to the rock. 

Even if we consider that the crack appeared purely following some inner natural 
processes of rock disintegration, there is no reason to deny that the shock of the heavy 
rifle discharge could intensify the process of disintegration of the rock. So, there is a 
possibility that the deep crack, where we placed the metal plate, is the result and the 
witness of the dramatic hunt that happened on this rock at the sunset on November 
30th, 1938. 


56 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


It is a stunning view of the Sharda river and Nepal from some of the houses of the 
Thak village. Happy to find someone in Thak village 8 , and following Corbett’s advice, 
I wanted to give a small gift to this family, but in order not to offend them, as Corbett 
suggested, I left a bit of money under a small stone at the entrance of their house on 
both occasions when I visited their village and their house. I think it will be nice and 
symbolic gesture for every Corbett fan, who will be visiting Thak, to leave a bit of 
money to anyone, living in village Thak at that moment, as if Corbett himself leaves 
some gift for the simple Indian villagers, whom he loved so dearly. 


In April 2012, when we camped at Thak, Sundar Singh family was not there, although their house 
condition indicated they still return there for prolonged periods of time. We were also told that last 
year most of the villagers returned to Thak in order to celebrate a religious festival which takes place 
in Thak once in every five years. Sundar Singh was accompanying us on our 2014 trip in the Thak 
village, and allowed us to have our camp next to his house, the only populated house in Thak today. 


57 


Historic rock where Thak tigress escaped 
Corbett, Ibbotson, and Tewari 

By JOSEPH JORDANIA, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

Apart from the sites where Corbett killed man-eaters, there are also a few sites, 
which constitute an integral part of the legacy of Corbett’s hunts. These are often sites 
where Corbett narrowly escaped death from man-eaters, or, in several other cases, 
sites where Corbett came very close to killing man-eaters. Many of such places are 
impossible or at least very difficult to identify with some certainty, but there are a few 
sites that can be identified because of the nature of the site. This chapter is dedicated 
to one such site. 

On October 27th, 1938, Corbett, Ibbotson and Tewari followed the Thak tigress 
after she killed a man from the village Thak the day before. This was the third victim 
of the tigress. The pursuit was tilled with utmost suspense and culminated at the giant 
slab of rock in almost killing the man-eater. Let us hear first of all what Corbett has 
to say about this moment of his hunt for probably the most elusive man-eaters he 
ever hunted: 

"On the morning of the 27th, just as we were finishing breakfast, 
a party of men led by Tewari, the brother of the Headman of Thak, ar- 
rived in camp and reported that a man of their village was missing. 
They stated that this man had left the village at about noon the pre- 
vious day, telling his wife before leaving that he was going to see 
that his cattle did not stray beyond the village boundary, and as he 
had not returned they feared he had been killed by the man-eater. 

"Our preparations were soon made, and at ten o'clock the Ibbot- 
sons and I set off for Thak, accompanied by Tewari and the men he had 
brought with him. The distance was only about two miles but the climb 
was considerable, and as we did not want to lose more time than we 
could possibly help we arrived at the outskirts of the village out of 
breath, and in a lather of sweat. 

"As we approached the village over the scrub-covered flat bit of 
ground which I have reason to refer to later 9, we heard a woman cry- 
ing. The wailing of an Indian woman mourning her dead is unmistak- 
able, and on emerging from the jungle we came on the mourner the wife 
of the missing man and some ten or fifteen men, who were waiting for 
us on the edge of the cultivated land. These people informed us that 
from their houses above they had seen some white object, which looked 
like part of the missing man's clothing, in a field overgrown with 
scrub thirty yards from where we were now standing. Ibbotson, Tewari 

9 Authors note: Corbett mentions this “scrub covered flat bit of ground” as it was here that he later 
called up and shot the Thak tigress on November 30 th , 1938. 


58 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


and I set off to investigate the white object, while Mrs Ibbotson 
took the woman and the rest of the men up to the village. 

"The field, which had been out of cultivation for some years, was 
covered with a dense growth of scrub not unlike chrysanthemum, and 
it was not until we were standing right over the white object that 
Tewari recognized it as the loin-cloth of the missing man. Near it 
was the man's cap. A struggle had taken place at this spot, but there 
was no blood. The absence of blood where the attack had taken place 
and for some considerable distance along the drag could be accounted 
for by the tigress having retained her first hold, for no blood would 
flow in such a case until the hold had been changed. 

"Thirty yards on the hill above us there was a clump of bushes 
roofed over with creepers. This spot would have to be looked at be- 
fore following up the drag, for it was not advisable to have the ti- 
gress behind us. In the soft earth under the bushes we found the pug 
marks of the tigress, and where she had lain before going forward to 
attack the man. 

"Returning to our starting point we agreed on the following plan 
of action. Our primary object was to try to stalk the tigress and 
shoot her on her kill: to achieve this end I was to follow the trail 
and at the same time keep a lookout in front, with Tewari who was un- 
armed a yard behind me keeping a sharp lookout to right and left, and 
Ibbotson a yard behind Tewari to safeguard us against an attack from 
the rear. In the event of either Ibbotson or I seeing so much as a 
hair of the tigress, we were to risk a shot. 

"Cattle had grazed over this area the previous day, disturbing 
the ground, and as there was no blood and the only indication of the 
tigress's passage was an occasional turned-up leaf or crushed blade 
of grass, progress was slow. After carrying the man for two hundred 
yards the tigress had killed and left him, and had returned and car- 
ried him off several hours later, when the people of Thak had heard 
several sambur calling in this direction. The reason for the tigress 
not having carried the man away after she had killed him was possibly 
due to his cattle having witnessed the attack on him, and driven her 
away . 

"A big pool of blood had formed where the man had been lying, and 
as the blood from the wound in his throat had stopped flowing by the 
time the tigress had picked him up again, and further, as she was now 
holding him by the small of the back, whereas she had previously held 
him by the neck, tracking became even more difficult. The tigress 
kept to the contour of the hill, and as the undergrowth here was 
very dense and visibility only extended to a few yards, our advance 
was slowed down. In two hours we covered half a mile, and reached a 
ridge beyond which lay the valley in which, six months previously, we 
had tracked down and killed the Chuka man-eater. On this ridge was a 


HISTORIC ROCK WHERE THAK TIGRESS ESCAPED CORBETT, IBBOTSON, AND TEWARI 


59 


great slab of rock, which sloped upwards and away from the direction 
in which we had come. The tigress's tracks went down to the right of 
the rock and I felt sure she was lying up under the overhanging por- 
tion of it, or in the close vicinity. 

"Both Ibbotson and I had on light rubber-soled shoes -- Tewari was 
bare-footed -- and we had reached the rock without making a sound. 
Signing to my two companions to stand still and keep a careful watch 
all round, I got a foothold on the rock, and inch by inch went for- 
ward. Beyond the rock was a short stretch of flat ground, and as more 
of this ground came into view, I felt certain my suspicion that the 
tigress was lying under the projection was correct. I had still a 
foot or two to go before I could look over, when I saw a movement to 
my left front. A golden-rod that had been pressed down had sprung 
erect, and a second later there was a slight movement in the bushes 
beyond, and a monkey in a tree on the far side of the bushes started 
calling . 

"The tigress had chosen the spot for her after-dinner sleep with 
great care, but unfortunately for us she was not asleep; and when 
she saw the top of my head -- I had removed my hat — appearing over 
the rock, she had risen and, taking a step sideways, had disappeared 
under a tangle of blackberry bushes . Had she been lying anywhere but 
where she was she could not have got away, no matter how quickly she 
had moved, without my getting a shot at her. Our so-carefully-car- 
ried-out stalk had failed at the very last moment, and there was 
nothing to be done now but find the kill, and see if there was suffi- 
cient of it left for us to sit up over." 

Suspense, connected to this site, does not finish here. Corbett stayed at the human 
remains (about 50 yards from this rock, at the ridge nearby), while Ibbotson and 
Tewari returned to the village to bring necessary equipment for making a Machan to 
sit in the kill. While Corbett was waiting for Ibbotson and Tewari, the tigress tried to 
approach the kill, but after seeing Corbett she left unseen. After Ibbotson and Tewari 
returned and prepared the machan, Corbett made a night-long vigil. Tigress, however, 
this time abandoned the kill and instead followed Ibbotson and Tewari, in hope to 
secure another human victim. Luckily Ibbotson and Tewari maintained strict vigilance 
all the way down to their camp, and avoided the attack. According to tracks, the tigress 
followed them up to their camp site near Ladhya and Sharda confluence. Corbett spent 
a night at the kill, witnessing how porcupines and then a Himalayan bear come to 
investigate the kill, but the elusive tigress did not appear any more. In the morning 
Ibbotson, Tewari and several men from the village Thak arrived to take care of the 
deceased man’s remains according to their religious practices. Corbett’s description is 
as rich in details as always, giving the reader the fill of being there and experiencing the 
thrill and danger of a hunter waiting for the whole night for the man-eater to appear. 


60 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


When tracking from Thak to Kot-Kindri on April 12th 2012, we had slight hope to 
find the rock, where the tigress escaped Corbett, Ibbotson and Tewari. The good point 
was that the rock, according to Corbett, was situated between Thak and Kot-Kindri, 
and we were going from Thak to Kot-Kindri. Also, as rocks can remain unchanged for 
many thousand years, we knew this would be close-by and hoped to see it. The bad 
news was that we did not have much time, and we could not organize a special search 
in the whole area for the rock. We had to be vigilant, and carefully scan the surround- 
ings as we went, hoping that the rock was in the vicinity of the currently existing path. 

We had been on the track for more than an hour, when we suddenly heard Pri- 
yvrat’s voice: “Guys, have a look! This rock looks like the Tewari rock!” We must 
mention here, that in our conversations we were often referring to this rock as “Tewari 
rock.” Tewari was a brother of Thak headman, and he was accompanying Corbett and 
Ibbotson on the trail. According to the book Temple Tiger, Tewari was also a brother 
(or a close relative, known sometimes as “brother” in India) of the killed man. We 
know that “Tewari” is a very common surname for Brahmins in Northern parts of 
India, and was most likely a family name for several Thak villagers, who were Brah- 
mins. During our visit to Chuka village we found the copy of the “Man-Eaters of 
Kumaon” left by a certain Mr Armstrong who finds mention elsewhere in this book to 
the villagers in the 1990s. On the book cover there is a handwritten note, most likely 
the result of Mr Armstrong asking the Thak villagers additional information about the 
Thak man-eater and her victims. The writing contains the names of two Tewari broth- 
ers - “Hera Bulup (probably Herabullabh) Tewari” and “Mondkrat Tewari,” probably 
one of them is the name of the person who accompanied Corbett and Ibbotson, and 
the other is the name of the victim of the man-eater. 

At the moment when we heard Priyvrat’s words, we were approaching the huge 
slab of rock, which was next to the path: the right side of it. From the side the rock 
looked as a giant asymmetrical triangle, lying on one of its long sides, with the ascend- 
ing side starting at the point where we came from (and where from Corbett, Ibbotson, 
and Tewari were following the tigress). We were naturally very excited, but tried to 
examine the rock before making any decisions. After a good examination of the rock 
we all agreed, that the rock suited perfectly the Corbett’s description. At the highest 
side of the triangular shape there is a perpendicular and even overhanging portion of 
the rock where the tigress could have been resting. Of course, we need to acknowledge, 
that theoretically there still is a possibility, that the real rock is somewhere else, far 
from the current path between the Thak and Kot-Kindri, but we can all certify, that 
Corbett’s description of the rock fits perfectly the one we found. 

Kotecha climbed the rock, repeating Corbett’s ascent, and soon was standing at 
the top of the rock, above the overhanging part of the rock, where the tigress must 
have been resting while Corbett was approaching. We asked one of our helpers, Chuka 
villagers to play the role of the tigress. So we filmed the scene of Corbett’s ascent and 


HISTORIC ROCK WHERE THAK TIGRESS ESCAPED CORBETT, IBBOTSON, AND TEWARI 


61 


tiger’s escape, and you can see this scene on the 40-41th minutes of the accompanying 
film. We visited the rock during our 2014 trip as well. You can also view the photos 
of this rock. During our 2014 visit the author of this chapter also climbed the rock, 
and we made precise measurements of the rock. The length of the ascending part is 
8 metres, the height at the other, overhanging end (where Corbett wanted to shot the 
resting tigress) is 3.90 metres. 

If a lover of Corbett stories is reading these words (and we believe most of the 
readers of this book would be certified Corbett fans), and if they decide to visit Chu- 
ka and Thak villages to see Corbett’s legendary hunting places, we propose to search 
for this rock as well. It can be relatively easily found on the path between Thak and 
Kot-Kindri. It is so close from the path that you can touch the rock with your hand 
without stepping aside from the path. You just need to have your attention on the 
right side of the path. 

Climbing the rock, as Corbett did, is not very easy, but quite possible for a fit 
person. But climbing the rock with a heavy rifle, and without making any sounds, is 
quite a feat for even a young trained person. And let us remember, Corbett was 63 
years old when he was in the pursuit of a Thak tigress, the last in his celebrated career 
as a slayer of man-eaters. 


62 


PART TWO: PEOPLE 


As every Corbett fan knows, Corbett’s stories describe real events in real time 
with real people. The descendants of the people from Corbett’s stories live today in 
contemporary India, many still in the same villages where their ancestors and relatives 
survived attacks of man-eating tigers, or were killed. During our visits to Kumaon we 
visited the villages where the relatives and descendants of these people live, talked to 
them and documented our findings. 

In this part of the book the reader will find names and life stories of several 
characters from Corbett’s books as they are remembered among their relatives and 
friends: the story of the village giant from Dalkania, who wrestled the man-eater and 
miraculously survived horrific wounds; story of a brave mother who would surely have 
died from the wounds of the tiger attack if not for the care and treatment received 
from Corbett; the pitiful story of the last- 436 th victim of the Champawat man-eater; 
the identities of the first and the second victims of the Thak man-eater, and the story 
of the man who first put Corbett on the dangerous careerpath of hunting of man-eater 
tigers and leopards. 

It was our ambition to put names on the characters that Corbett describes some- 
times so vividly in his stories, unsung Heroes in every respect, especially those who 
have a direct relevance in his stories. 


63 


Kulomani: The Gaunt Friend of Corbett 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

'One of the villagers accompanying me was a tall gaunt man 
with a terribly disfigured face. He had been a constant visitor to 
my camp, and finding in me a good listener had told and retold 
his encounter with the man-eater so often that I could, without 
effort, repeat the whole story in my sleep.' 

Corbett in Man-Eaters ofKumaon 

This ‘tall gaunt man’ is known as Kulomani Bhugiyal, the man who fought the 
Chowgarh man-eating tigress and was from Dalkhania Village. This finding is cred- 
ited to Joel Lyall in his book ‘Jungle Tales’. Not satisfied at just knowing the name, 
and instructed by Priyvrat, Manfred and I decided to investigate further in Dalkhania 
village in April 2012. By a good stroke of luck we met Kulomani’s grand nephew Mr 
Tara Dutt Bhugiyal [son of Roop Dev Bhugiyal (1928 - 2004), nephew of Kulomani], 
who was kind enough to inform us of the existence of Kulomani’s only living grand- 
son, Mr Trilochand Bhugiyal. Unfortunately we could not meet the latter since it was 
getting dark and we had to return to our camp. We came back to Dalkhania in April 
2014 with our whole group and met Mr Trilochand. I had conducted both interviews 
at intervals of two years time with those two separate persons and I am proud to say 
that these hill-folks gave me separate informations which tally almost perfectly, safe 
for one or two inaccuracies in birth dates. 

Kulomani’s descendants tree is therefore as follows: 

■ Kulomani Bhugiyal (1887 10 -1952) - Died at age of 65 years. 

■ Only Son - (Shri) Elari Krishna Bhugiyal (1918 * 11 - 1985). He was at the scene 
when the man-eater attacked his father. Died at age of 67 years. 

■ Two grandsons - Elder is Prem Ballav (1950 - 1994) Died at age of 44 years - no 
descendant; 

• Younger grandson is Trilochand Bhugiyal (Born 1963, still living in the same 
village Dalkhania, as his grandfather Kulomani). 

Trilochand said that he learned about his grandfather Kulomani thanks to his 
father (Shri) Hari Krishna, who incidentally also appear in the chapter ‘Chowgarh 
Tigers’ where Kulomani relates to Corbett that: 

10 While both Trilochand and Tara Dutt gave the year 1952 as Kulomani’s death year, they both did 
not know his birth date. While Tara Dutt said to us Kulomani died at age 85, Trilochand who is 
more directly related said his grandfather died at age 65, from which we get a better accurate date 
for Kulomanis birth year. It is also possible to propose that Kulomani looked older because of his 
disfigured face. 

11 This year is deduced from subtracting death year given by Trilochand with death age. 


64 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


‘The encounter had taken place four years reviously and is best told in his own 
words.’... “My son, who was eight years of age at the time, and I had cut grass.....” 

and later, 

“My son had been too frightened to run away, and when the tiger had gone, I took 
his loincloth from him and wrapped...” 

Now, it happens that the age of (Shri) Hari Krishna, the ‘son of Kulomani’ in the 
above lines almost matches that given by Trilochand. In Corbett’s account, it appears 
that (Shri) Hari Krishna is born in 1917 - since Corbett quotes the year 1929 at the 
beginning of the story. But let me remind you that months’ have not been taken into 
account when Trilochand gave us dates and death age of (Shri) Hari Krishna. So it 
could be a perfect fit. You can see the photo of Trilochand, Kulomani’s grandson and 
Hari Krishna’s son. Unfortunately, no photos of Kulomani and Hari Krishna were 
found. 

The date of the attack of the Chowgarh Tigress on Kulomani, based on the 
‘Man-Eaters of Kumaon’ lines above, would be 1925, since Corbett said in his writings 
that he was there in February 1929, though it is a controversial date (See “Contro- 
versies” chapter). This year 1925 for the attack would also give Kulomani’s son, (Shri) 
Hari Krishna’s birth year as 1917 (see footnote also) - born in 1917, he would have 
been 8 years old in 1925 which seems good. 

However, we have showed in the “Controversies” part of this book that the date 
February 1929 for Corbett’s arrival in Dalkhania is not plausible. Furthermore, the 
“...four years previously...” in the above quotes seems inaccurate with the text of 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon itself. If Man-Eaters of Kumaon gives February 1929 for Cor- 
bett’s arrival in Kala Agar/Dalkhania, which leads to the attack on Kulomani to have 
happened early in 1925, it also gives the 15 December 1925 as the date of the first 
victim of the Chowgarh tigress which seems incoherent now. But such inaccuracies 
happen and should you like to know more, we have dedicated a whole part of this 
book on those. 

Trilochand remembers well the account of his father on Kulomani, so did his 
cousin Tara Dutt, both had been at a reasonable age when (Shri) Hari Krishna died in 
1985. Tara Dutt even showed us the place where the fight of Kulomani and the tigress 
took place, but at a distance of 500-600 metres from where we stood, it was difficult 
to go down that late afternoon. Trilochand gives a good description of Kulomani, says 
he was ‘very tali’. Taller than me? I asked; [I’m 6 foot tall (183cm)], “surely taller than 
you” was the reply by extending his arm at least a foot higher than my head. 

‘hooking at the great frame of the man, it was easy to picture him as having been 
a veritable giant.’ 

Were the words used by Corbett to describe Kulomani. I admit I thought Trilo- 
chand was exaggerating his grandfather’s height, but I don’t think Corbett was! And 
what about his face? I asked. “He has great scars on his right cheek and forehead, my 


KULOMANI: THE GAUNT FRIEND OF CORBETT 


65 


father told me that people were afraid to look at his face.” I now remember Manfred 
pressing me to ask him about his eyes. “His right eye was damaged” he instantly re- 
plied. I think Kamal, acting as translator, interpreted his answer as a ‘missing right eye’. 
Trilochand also described Kulomani’s face as being ‘horribly scarred’ in our interview 
two years earlier without further description. 

That day, we had also been on object of finding the girl that Corbett managed to 
cure following an attack by the Chowgarh man-eater in Dalkhania. From her sur- 
name, we initially fell on a distant relative of hers, Mrs Laxmi Bhatt, a former village 
head-woman (called village ‘pradhan’) of Dalkhania in 2009. This was prior to our 
meeting with Trilochand. While she offered us buttered milk with ‘jagri’ (sweetened 
condensed milk like) as a welcome drink, we asked her if she knew about Kuloma- 
ni. Instantly she made an awful expression on her face, indescribable by me, which 
stunned Dr Jordania, and she said “Yes I know and saw him, his face looks like this” 
and she repeated the facial gesture to our amazement. This lady deserves a paragraph 
in this chapter, later on, for now I question her age, because I already knew from 
Tara Dutt, two years previously that Kulomani died in 1952. Asking a Kumaoni lady 
about her age is next to an offence similar like one walking with shoes in a temple. So 
I circumvented around with silly questions about her ‘pradhan- ship’ and found that 
she should be between 62 to 67 years. 

Assuming she is 67 years old, she must have seen Kulomani when she was 5 years 
old at most and 62 years later, she could repeat, with facial gesture, an expression on 
a human face who Kulomani himself confessed, as reported by Corbett: 

“And now, sahib, I am as you see me, old and thin, and with white hair, and a face 
that no man can look on without repulsion.” 

And what did Kulomani do for a living apart from rearing animals? Tara Dutt 
ventured to say that since his family is involved in tree-felling for timber, himself owns 
a sawing workshop, that Kulomani could well have been the origin of this business, 
because he was reported to have felled great logs of wood distant away in the forest 
and tying the log with a rope to his waist, he had hauled it back to the village. “No 
doubt about his strength, he was over-powerful’ he said. Surely powerful enough for 
having removed a tigress from her clutches! Trilochand for his part said his father was 
formerly involved in timber business, but he never got indulged in it. And so lives 
the legend, in Kumaon, of the man who fought a tigress, and survived the attack . . . 

At the end let us listen to the scene of the attack, so vividly described in Corbett 
story: 

"Do you see that pine tree, sahib, at the bottom of the grassy 
slope on the shoulder of the hill? Yes, the pine tree with a big white 
rock to the east of it. Well, it was at the upper edge of the grassy 
slope that the man-eater attacked me. The grassy slope is as per- 
pendicular as the wall of a house, and none but a hillman could find 
foothold on it. My son, who was eight years of age at the time, and I 


66 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


had cut grass on that slope on the day of my misfortune, carrying the 
grass up in armfuls to the belt of trees where the ground is level. 

"I was stooping down at the very edge of the slope, tying the 
grass into a big bundle, when the tiger sprang at me and buried its 
teeth, one under my right eye, one in my chin and the other two here 
at the back of my neck. The tiger's mouth struck me with a great blow 
and I fell over on my back, while the tiger lay on top of me chest 
to chest, with its stomach between my legs. When falling backwards I 
had flung out my arms and my right hand had come in contact with an 
oak sapling. As my fingers grasped the sapling, an idea came to me. 
My legs were free, and if I could draw them up and insert my feet un- 
der and against the tiger' s belly, I might be able to push the tiger 
off, and run away. The pain, as the tiger crushed all the bones on the 
right side of my face, was terrible; but I did not lose conscious- 
ness, for you see, sahib, at that time I was a young man, and in all 
the hills there was no one to compare with me in strength. Very slow- 
ly, so as not to anger the tiger I drew my legs up on either side of 
it, and gently inserted my bare feet against its belly. Then placing 
my left hand against its chest and pushing and kicking upwards with 
all my might, I lifted the tiger right off the ground and, we being 
on the very edge of the perpendicular hillside, the tiger went crash- 
ing down and be like would have taken me with him, had my hold on the 
sapling not been a good one. 

"My son had been too frightened to run away, and when the tiger 
had gone, I took his loincloth from him and wrapped it round my head, 
and holding his hand I walked back to the village. Arrived at my home 
I told my wife to call all my friends together, for I wished to see 
their faces before I died. When my friends were assembled and saw 
my condition, they wanted to put me on a charpoy and carry me fifty 
miles to the Almora hospital, but this I would not consent to; for my 
suffering was great, and being assured that my time had come, I want- 
ed to die where I had been born, and where I had lived all my life. 
Water was brought, for I was thirsty and my head was on fire, but when 
it was poured into my mouth, it all flowed out through the holes in my 
neck. Thereafter, for a period beyond measure, there was great confu- 
sion in my mind, and much pain in my head and in my neck, and while I 
waited and longed for death to end my sufferings my wounds healed of 
themselves, and I became well." 

Incredible! We can truly say the tigress met a match on that day. 

Addition: Laxmi Bhatt on other Chowgarh victims 

A colourful character she is, contrasting with our unsung heroes of this chapter, in 
which she does not form part. But we have included her here for a few lines because 
she has an incredible story to tell about another man who fought with the Chowgarh 


KULOMANI: THE GAUNT FRIEND OF CORBETT 


67 


tigress and survived the attack. This does not appear in Corbett’s story, but according to 
her, this attack is documented. Kulomani was not the only survivor of an attack of the 
Chowgarh tigress, just like Corbett says just after returning to his camp in Dalkhania 
after shooting the Chowgarh cub: 

'Every man present had lost one or more relatives, and several (of 
them) bore tooth and claw marks, inflicted by the man-eater, which 
they will carry to their graves.' 

One of these men attending to Corbett that day, according to Laxmi Bhatt, was her 
uncle, Khimanand Bhatt (1889 - 1964), son of Lallmani Bhatt (Laxmi’s grandfather). 
The Bhatt family is a big family in Dalkhania, and you’ll meet more Bhatt’s in this 
story, so don’t lose the thread. Khimanand was very unfortunate because both he and 
his first wife suffered attacks from the Chowgarh man-eater tigress in an interval of 2 
years, fatally though for his wife. Laxmi bhatt does not recall the name of Khimanand’s 
first wife, who was pregnant when killed by the tigress. This mother-to-be originated 
from Devli village, nearby Kundal and was killed in the forest adjoining Debta Gaon, 
a small community near Dalkhania in January 1930. Laxmi Bhatt tells us that Khi- 
manand had a broken forearm, resulting from the attack he suffered in 1928 in the 
same locality and that she is giving precise dates here because she says this tragic story 
is documented in Nainital’s Shirley Hall (in the exhibition room) together with a photo 
of her grandfather. Unfortunately Nainital was not in our plans, so this will be for 
another occasion where the facts shall be checked. Khimanand’s second wife, Parvati 
Devi who died in 1948/49 bore him only a son, who died in 1993 with no descendant. 


68 


Naruli Devi and Shri Ganga Dutt Bhatt: 

The brave mother and 
the “occupant of the basket” 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

When reading ‘Chowgarh Tigers’ in Man-Eaters of Kumaon, one has to admit that 
before the story’s happy ending, there is yet another dramatic story in the story with 
a happy ending: This is of the girl of Dalkhania who was believed to be dead after 
she was severely mauled by the Chowgarh man-eater tigress and who was nursed by 
Corbett to full recovery. Let us listen to Corbett’s moving account of the events: 

.. .The man had run all the way uphill from the village, and when he 
regained his breath he informed me that a woman had just been killed 
by the man-eater, about half a mile on the far side of the village. 
As we ran down the hillside I saw a crowd of people collected in the 
courtyard already alluded to. Once again my approach through the nar- 
row lane was not observed, and looking over the heads of the assem- 
bled men, I saw a girl sitting on the ground. 

The upper part of her clothing had been torn off her young body, 
and with head thrown back and hands resting on the ground behind to 
support her, she sat without sound or movement, other than the heav- 
ing up and down of her breast, in the hollow of which the blood, that 
was flowing down her face and neck, was collecting in a sticky con- 
gealed mass . 

My presence was soon detected and a way made for me to approach 
the girl. While I was examining her wounds, a score of people, all 
talking at the same time, informed me that the attack on the girl had 
been made on comparatively open ground in full view of a number of 
people including the girl's husband; that alarmed at their combined 
shouts the tiger had left the girl and gone off in the direction of 
the forest; that leaving the girl for dead where she had fallen her 
companions had run back to the village to inform me; that subsequent- 
ly the girl had regained consciousness and returned to the village; 
that she would without doubt die of her injuries in a few minutes; 
and that they would then carry her back to the scene of the attack, 
and I could sit up over the corpse and shoot the tiger. 

While this information was being imparted to me the girl's eyes 
never left my face and followed my every movement with the liquid 
pleading gaze of a wounded and frightened animal . Room to move un- 
hampered, quiet to collect my wits, and clean air for the girl to 
breathe were necessary, and I am afraid the methods I employed to 
gain them were not as gentle as they might have been. When the last 


THE BRAVE MOTHER AND THE “OCCUPANT OF THE BASKET’ 


69 


of the men had left in a hurry, I set the women, who up to now had 
remained in the background, to winning water and to tearing my shirt, 
which was comparatively clean and dry, into bandages, while one girl, 
who appeared to be on the point of getting hysterics, was bundled off 
to scour the village for a pair of scissors. The water and bandages 
were ready before the girl I had sent for the scissors returned with 
the only pair, she said, the village could produce. They had been 
found in the house of a tailor, long since dead, and had been used 
by the widow for digging up potatoes. The rusty blades, some eight 
inches long, could not be made to meet at any point, and after a vain 
attempt I decided to leave the thick coils of blood-caked hair alone. 

The major wounds consisted of two claw cuts, one starting between 
the eyes and extending right over the head and down to the nape of the 
neck, leaving the scalp hanging in two halves, and the other, start- 
ing near the first, running across the forehead up to the right ear. 
In addition to these ugly gaping wounds there were a number of deep 
scratches on the right breast, right shoulder and neck, and one deep 
cut on the back of the right hand, evidently inflicted when the girl 
had put up her hand in a vain attempt to shield her head. 

A doctor friend whom I had once taken out tiger-shooting on foot 
had, on our return after an exciting morning, presented me with a 
two-ounce bottle of yellow fluid which he advised me to carry whenev- 
er I went out shooting. I had carried the bottle in the inner pocket 
of my shooting jacket for over a year and a portion of the fluid had 
evaporated; but the bottle was still three-parts full, and after I 
had washed the girl's head and body I knocked the neck off the bottle 
and poured the contents, to the last drop, into the wounds. This done 
I bandaged the head, to try to keep the scalp in position, and then 
picked up the girl and carried her to her home a single room combin- 
ing living quarters, kitchen and nursery with the women following 
behind . 

Dependent from a rafter near the door was an open basket, the oc- 
cupant of which was now clamouring to be fed. This was a complication 
with which I could not deal, so I left the solution of it to the as- 
sembled women. Ten days later, when on the eve of my departure I vis- 
ited the girl for the last time, I found her sitting on the doorstep 
of her home with the baby asleep in her lap. 

Her wounds, except for a sore at the nape of her neck where the 
tiger' s claws had sunk deepest into the flesh, were all healed, and 
when parting her great wealth of raven-black hair to show me where 
the scalp had made a perfect join, she said, with a smile, that she 
was very glad her young sister had quite by mistake borrowed the 
wrong pair of scissors from the tailor's widow (for a shorn head here 
is the sign of widowhood) . If these lines should ever be read by my 
friend the doctor I should like him to know that the little bottle of 


70 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


yellow fluid he so thoughtfully provided for me, saved the life of a 
very brave young mother . 

Joel Lyall had found the mother-girl’s name by meeting her living grandson, Ke- 
shav Bhatt in year 2000 in Dalkhania and spelled it as Nirla Devi. Again, I was not 
content with only the name of the brave mother and accordingly we set on the tracks 
of Keshav Bhatt to find more. As said before, the Bhatt family is an extended one in 
Dalkhania and heading for Patnaut, we landed on Laxmi Bhatt first. Everybody has 
everybody’s contact details on their cellphone in Dalkhania, I was surprised when 
Laxmi bhatt’s son called upon two of our targets: Trilochand Bhugiyal and Keshav 
Bahtt on his cellphone. 

Meeting with Keshav Bhatt had been arranged in a tea-shop together with a certain 
Lok Mani Paneru (born 1932) who claimed that his father was accidentally shot by 
Corbett in an attempt to kill a man-eater. Lok Mani however failed the preliminary 
questions which had been asked to eliminate the usurpations of usual Corbett folk- 
lore of the kind of ‘you know. . .my grandfather knew the sahib. . .’ On the other hand, 
Keshav Bhatt did not only succeed the tests, but brought something to our attention, 
which Joel Lyall certainly overlooked: Apart from giving the correct spelling of her 
grandmother’s name as Naruli Devi instead of Nirla Devi, he reveals that his father, 
(Shri) Ganga Dutt Bhatt, Naruli Devi’s first son, died at the age of 84 in 2012. There- 
fore born in 1928, he was, in early 1929, the OCCUPANT OP THE BASKET Corbett 
mentions in his story! And Keshav Bahtt has his photo in his home... 

We did not lose one second, thanking Lok Mani with some cigarettes, every reason 
we had to believe that his account was suspicious; we drove to Keshav Bhatt’s home 
for that photo and perhaps more information. The photo, (Shri) Ganga Dutt’s only 
available photo was, to my slight disappointment, a coloured one, taken in 2002, ten 
years before his death. I would have preferred a b/w one taken in the days of ancient 
photography. 

Regret was to come when Keshav said to us that his father (Shri) Ganga Dutt 
died in September 2012, we missed the occasion to meet him when we were there in 
April 2012. It was now time for serious questions about Naruli Devi because we came 
initially because of her and not her son, the ‘occupant of the basket’. Keshav said to us 
he was born in 1956, so, obviously the first question was: Did you meet Naruli Devi? 

“Yes, of course, she died when I was about 25 years old” came the reply. Then 
Keshav explained that Naruli Devi died at the age of 70 years in 1982, so that in sum- 
mary, the following information was obtained: 

• Naruli Devi (1912 - 1982) - the brave girl, attacked by the man-eater at the 
age of 17, and cured by Corbett in 1929. 

• Naruli’s husband - name not known, died in 1948 at the age of 46 - Naruli 
bore him 5 children. 

• Pirst child - (Shri) Ganga Dutt Bhatt (1928 - 2012) and two other sons and 
2 daughters, all dead. 


THE BRAVE MOTHER AND THE “OCCUPANT OF THE BASKET’ 


71 


• Keshav Bhatt, born 1956, 58 years old in 2014, 1st child of (Shri) Ganga Dutt, 
3 daughters, 1 son and 12 grandchildren. 

It is traditional that Hindus give their house as inheritance to the first son, so 
did Naruli Devi to (Shri) Ganga Dutt according to Keshav and he inherited the same 
house from his father. So, is this house built on the land that Naruli Devi lived after her 
marriage when she was mauled? No, it isn’t according to Keshav, he remembers that 
they used to live in a wooden house on the opposite slope, nearer to Kundal. We were 
on the south-eastern face of the Kala Agar Ridge and Keshav was showing his former 
locality as being on the east face of the ridge, just like Corbett describes in the story: 

"A trail ten days old was not worth following up, and after a long 
discussion with the Headmen I decided to make for Dalkania village 
on the eastern side of the ridge. Dalkania is ten miles from Kala 
Agar , ..." 

So, Dalkhania is now a village which has expanded in length along the newly built 
road (15 years ago), and Keshav continued and said to us that it was Naruli Devi who 
acted as a true matriarch for the family and built this house. He said that she was 
very hardworking and was still fetching leaves and firewood on the eve of her death. 
According to Keshav, the whole family is indebted to the efforts of Naruli Devi and, 
thanks to Joel Lyall who counted them the story; they are also hugely indebted to the 
Carpet Sahib, Jim Corbett. 

The last set of questions now concerned the physical appearance of Naruli Devi: 
Keshav explained that she had a frail body, was at most 5ft in height and in his distant 
memories, remember her with dense, long, black hair. “For the last decade of her life, 
her hair was not so dense and had grown white gradually, but was still long” he said. 
The moment of truth remained however: Could Keshav describe any particularity 
about her grandmother? I admit I had been harsh here, because I did not give any hint 
to Keshav like: Did your grandma have scars on her head? But he instantly replied: 
“Her forehead had some scars, one on her cheek if I remember correctly, and one at 
the right collar bone...” 

And what about her head? I asked - He humbly replied that this was also Joel 
Lyall’s question in the year 2000. And what did you tell Mr Lyall? - “I’ll say the same 
thing to you, my grandmother had only visible scars on the forehead and on the 
right collar bone, she might have had other which were not visible and moreover she 
never told anyone of us about her scars, except that she received them when she was 
wounded by a tiger near her house when she was young and that a white sahib had 
healed her wounds.” 

I was burning for a final last question: What did your grandmother tell you about 
the sahib who healed her wounds? - “She did not say much except that she did not 
know who that sahib was until her story was being told by her neighbours each time 
the sahib came to hunt the tiger who wounded her and after that she learned that 


72 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


the sahib finally managed to shoot the tiger a year later.” Earlier I spoke about ‘happy 
endings’, well, the story of the brave mother saved by Jim Corbett and occupant of the 
cradle could not have had a more beautiful ending than the recalling of Keshav Bhatt 
about the destiny of his father and grandmother - the former happy ending reading 
as follows in Man-Eaters of Kumaon 

"If these lines should ever be read by my friend the doctor I 
should like him to know that the little bottle of yellow fluid he so 
thoughtfully provided for me, saved the life of a very brave young 
mother . " 


73 


Premka Devi: The last victim of the Champawat 

Man-eater 


By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

“Come quickly, sahib, the man-eater has just killed a girl” - were the words that the 
runner said to Jim Corbett when the Champawat man-eating tigress just made her 
last staggering 436th kill. I believe here that many of you readers would have wished 
just like me to know more of this girl. Perhaps it’s because of the following lines in 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon, which would have moved any weak heart, or was it anything 
else that induced the persistence of doing further research there after being unsuc- 
cessful in our first visit in 2012: 

"The spot where the girl had been killed was marked by a pool of 
blood and near it, and in vivid contrast to the crimson pool, was a 
broken necklace of brightly coloured blue beads which the girl had 
been wearing." 

From Peter Byrne’s book, we learn that this girl comes from Gaudi village (see the 
chapter about the Champawat final spot), but the haunted bungalow which Corbett 
stayed during the hunt is in Phungar village on the opposite slope to Gaudi. These facts 
produced by Byrne seemed incoherent with the story; we decided to look for ourselves. 

Manfred and I had been in Gaudi village in April 2012 and had questioned many 
inhabitants of this terraced village about this girl killed by a tigress more than 100 
years previously. Not only did Gaudi villagers appear completely strange to our quest, 
but also none of them could give any information about any tiger victim of the village, 
though they knew the story of the Champawat man-eater and the spot where it was 
killed. Further, we made enquiries about any forest bungalow in Gaudi village, which 
yielded no results. The closest bungalow to the spot where the man-eater was shot is 
in Phungar just like Byrne mentioned. Manfred and I had visited the Phungar forest 
bungalow in 2012 and initially we ruled it out. 

In April 2014, during our second visit, Manfred suggested that we should again 
enquire in Phungar village (pronounced foongaar), because he had strong reasons to 
believe that the famous haunted bungalow which Corbett stayed is in Phungar and not 
on the slopes overlooking Gaudi village! So, he believed that Peter Byrne had given the 
wrong village for the last victim and right village for the bungalow. I fell ill during our 
first day in Champawat in April 2014, so Priyvrat, Dr Jordania and Manfred who had 
been ‘on reconnaissance’ during the day brought me news about the confirmation of 
the Phungar bungalow as the one which Corbett experienced a supernatural encounter 
and further said that they met a man who says he knows about the last victim of the 
Champawat man-eater. 


74 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


The second day in Phungar in April 2014 1 managed to come over my sickness and 
at mid-day we sat on the veranda of the forest bungalow to have lunch. Kamal who had 
done some research in the village previous to our arrival, brought a certain Dev Singh 
Bohra to our improvised lunch, the man who my friends met the previous day: A frail 
elderly man he is, a great smoker of cigarettes I observed he was since he managed to 
finish three of my strong German brand cigarettes in a row without a single cough! 

Dev Singh Bohra who was born in Phungar village says he is 78 years old and 
bears no relation to Gopal Singh Bohra, the man who led us to the spot where the 
Champawat man-eater was shot. Invited to share some ‘chappatis’ (unleavened brown 
bread) with us, he accepted and when he finished, he began his incredible story: “My 
father had witnessed the beat for the man-eating tiger which Corbett sahib shot there 
(showing the gorge below) more than 100 years ago”. There was no doubt that he was 
speaking about the Champawat man-eater shot in 1907 by Jim Corbett. So as the ritual 
was in those cases, it was up to me to ask him questions now to sort him from the 
fake witness accounts on Corbett. 

“Tell us more about your father, his name, birth year, death year and anything else 
you remember about him” I pleaded to him. He looked at Kamal and said - “He does 
not believe me, does he?” I reassured him instantly by telling that I wanted the most 
of information which he could give and in a precise order so I could not forget to ask 
him about everything. He turned to me, asked for one more cigarette, which I lighted 
for him, and said: “My father’s name is Jhummun Singh, I don’t know in which year 
he was born, but he died in 1983 at the age of 84 or 85 years old”. 

About his father’s account on the beat for the man-eater, he said: “My father said 
to me he was 10 years old in that year when the tiger whom everybody feared took 
his elder sister while she was collecting oak leaves there (pointing towards the trees 
on the brow of the Phungar side of the Champa gorge some 500m or more from us)”. 
Now that was becoming serious, since he was now alleging that his aunt is the LAST 
victim of the Champawat man-eater. To be double sure, I told him: “I asked you about 
the beat for the man-eater”. The old man, whom I feared about his memory, replied 
instantly: “I told you it was the beat for that same tiger who took my father’s sister” 
while he looked in Kamal’s direction. 

Kamal then tells me that Dev Singh Bohra had already told this story to my friends 
the day before, which I knew but he was not asked too many details. I wanted to know 
more about the aunt in question especially her name and if she was younger or older 
than his father: “My father who was the 3rd child of his family told me that his sister 
who was killed by the tiger was 4 years older than him and her name was PREMKA 
DEVI, there is also the cadet sister called Soowah Devi, who was present during the 
tiger incident; his mother and my four younger aunts were at home”. Corbett wrote: 

"Pointing to some scattered oak trees on a gentle slope a furlong 
or so from the village, he said a dozen people were collecting dry 


PREMKA DEVI: THE LAST VICTIM OF THE CHAMPAWAT MAN-EATER 


75 


sticks under the trees when a tiger suddenly appeared and caught one 
of their number, a girl sixteen or seventeen years of age" 

Now, the spot of the attack as pointed by Dev Singh corresponds to Corbett de- 
scribing it to be a ‘furlong’ (200m) from the village. But the age of the girl is of concern 
now: According to Dev Singh she was 14 years old, Corbett said she wasl6 or 17. Dev 
Singh continued: “Premka Devi, whom my father told me so much about, was married 
for six months when she was taken. My father had told but I forgot about her husband’s 
name, the latter had married again one or two years after Premka Devi died and had 
broken ties with our family”. I now can offer one explanation for the mismatch of age 
between Corbett’s writing and Dev Singh’s recollections - the fact that Premka Devi 
was married, indicates a high probability that she looked older than her age, hereby 
explaining Corbett’s possible mistake. 

Dev Singh then relates the story of those two days just like his father Jhummun 
Singh had told him: “The attack had taken place early in the morning. Corbett Sahib 
arrived at the village at about noon (..). The family had refused to believe that Premka 
Devi was dead, and they hoped that the Sahib would bring her back. They were anx- 
ious during the whole afternoon and night waiting to get news of her, in vain, since 
nobody came back to the village to inform them. The next day more than 250 people 
had gathered for the beat and in the afternoon, news finally came for the death of 
both the man-eater and Premka Devi.” A fragment of Corbett’s writing tells us that 
Premka Devi was already dead and I duly informed Dev Singh of this fact as reported 
in Man-Eaters of Kumaon: 

''The track of the tigress was clearly visible. On one side of it 
were great splashes of blood where the girl's head had hung down, 
and on the other side the trail of her feet. Half a mile up the hill 
I found the girl's sari, and on the brow of the hill her skirt. Once 
again the tigress was carrying a naked woman, but mercifully on this 
occasion her burden was dead." 

Dev Singh faltered when, upon instructions, Kamal translated the above to him. 
But he did not let his emotions overtake him and continued: “The whole village had 
gathered around the dead tiger, my grandmother (Jhummun Singh’s mother) frayed a 
way in the crowd and angrily beat the dead body of the tiger; she even reached for the 
sickle she had hanging on her waist, but some men from the crowd pulled her away. 
It was Corbett sahib that came to tell my grandmother as why to beat the tiger’s body 
since the death of her daughter has already been avenged. My father then said that 
the next day he had witnessed the cutting of the tiger’s carcass which were distributed 
among the crowd. The ring which Premka Devi wore in her right hand finger and her 
earrings had been recovered from the tiger’s stomach.” We learn from the story that 
the whole fingers were recovered: 


76 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


“The fingers of the girl which the tigress had swallowed whole were sent to me 
in spirits by the Tehsildar, and were buried by me in the Nainital lake close to the 
Nandadevi temples.” 

Telling Dev Singh that Corbett Sahib buried her aunt’s fingers on the shores of 
Lake Naini near the Nanda Devi temple, I offered him to spread some flowers there 
on behalf of his family. This I duly obliged when in Nainital while my daughters also 
asked me to make a “ghenda phool” garland for Jim Corbett which we put round his 
statue’s neck in Kaladhungi on the date of his death anniversary on the 19th April 2014. 

Now, about the funeral of Premka Devi Dev Singh said: “According to my father, 
her sister was cremated down the gorge there (pointing roughly to the spot we dis- 
covered where the tigress was killed) since several body parts were recovered in the 
vicinity.” In the story we learn that the leg of the victim was recovered by Corbett for 
that purpose: 

"The late owner of the severed leg was a Hindu, and some portion 
of her would be needed for the cremation, so as I passed the pool I 
dug a hole in the bank and buried the leg where it would be safe from 
the tigress, and could be found when wanted." 

And still further we read that the place of the funeral was at the spot where the 
tigress was shot: 

"On the way down the hill the beaters had found the head of the 
unfortunate girl, and a thin column of smoke rising straight up into 
the still air from the mouth of the gorge showed where the relations 
were performing the last rites of the Champawat man-eater' s last vic- 
tim, on the very spot on which the man-eater had been shot." 

I admit I had been surprised by Dev Singh’s accurate account up to here, including 
his last revelation of the spot of the funeral. But there was still more to come from Dev 
Singh. We had been to Phungar village also on object to find the rock where Corbett 
instructs the man that the tehsildar sent after him to climb upon. 

"Half-way down the hill we came on a great pinnacle of rock some 
thirty feet high, and as the man had by now had all the man-eater 
hunting he could stand, I told him to climb the rock and remain on it 
until I returned." 

Dev Singh even comes to our help here. “The rock you are looking for is 3 or 4 
times the height of this veranda (of the bungalow under which we were some 9- 10ft 
high) and it is on the Phungar side of the gorge. I feel sorry I cannot guide you there 
because of my condition, but if Kamal Ji accepts, he can drive me on the opposite gorge 
and I will show the approximate position from where you can search...” 

I was overly thrilled by Dev Singh’s enthusiasm at answering my questions pre- 
cisely. I felt I would have spent the whole day with him asking him about other people 
in the Champawat man-eater’s story, but my return flight was due on the next day 
in Delhi some 400kms away. My friends had to take over at this stage. After lighting 
a final cigarette for Dev Singh and giving him the best of my wishes, he said to me: 


PREMKA DEVI: THE LAST VICTIM OF THE CHAMPAWAT MAN-EATER 


77 


“I will show you where my cadet sister lives. She surely remembers the name of our 
grandmother (Jhummun Singhs mother).” I would have loved to conduct a second 
interview of Premka Devi’s living relative, but I knew that my friends would have 
taken care of that and you’ll surely read it in the diary. So I bade farewell to him, 
Kamal and my friends. 

And so goes the story of Premka Devi, the last 436th victim of the Champawat 
man-eating tigress, wearer of the bright blue beads necklace. 


78 


Beena: Thak Tigress’s First Victim 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

In this section we shall discuss the results of our search for the identity of the 
twelve-year old girl from the village Kot Kindri (Kot-Kendri), the first victim of the 
Thak tigress. Corbett saw the future Thak man-eater first in April 1938, when he was 
sitting concealed to hunt the Chuka man-eater. At that time the tigress was healthy 
and posed no threat to any humans. But from April to August the tigress was wound- 
ed twice (from a muzzle loader), one of the wounds became septic, and her skin was 
permanently adhered to the body. It was this wound, according to Corbett, that may 
have made the harmless tigress into a dreaded man-eater. The first victim was killed 
while she was collecting a windfalls from the mango tree, in late August or early 
September of 1938. 

Corbett does not mention her name, so we tried to search if the event was still in 
the memory of the villagers, while we were in Kot Kindri during our visit to Kumaon 
in April 2014. Here is how Corbett describes the killing of the young girl. This is the 
very beginning of the story about the Thak man-eater, the last hunting of the book 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon, and about the last man-eater killed by Corbett: 

"PEACE had reigned in the Ladhya valley for many months when in 
September '38 a report was received in Nainital that a girl, twelve 
years of age, had been killed by a tiger at Kot Kindri village. The 
report which reached me through Donald Stewart of the Forest Depart- 
ment gave no details, and it was not until I visited the village some 
weeks later that I was able to get particulars of the tragedy. It ap- 
peared that, about noon one day, this girl was picking up windfalls 
from a mango tree close to and in full view of the village, when a 
tiger suddenly appeared. Before the men working nearby were able to 
render any assistance, it carried her off. No attempt was made to 
follow up the tiger, and as all signs of drag and blood trail had been 
obliterated and washed away long before I arrived on the scene, I was 
unable to find the place where the tiger had taken the body to." 


Record of the search 

One of us (Manfred Waltl) visited Kot Kindri during his 2007 visit of Corbett 
places, but at that time no attempt was made to inquire about the identity of the girl. 
I did not visit Kot Kindri during my 2011 visit of Chuka and Thak. 

During our 2012 visit members of our group went through Kot-Kindri without 
stopping there and inquiring about the first victim of the Thak tigress. During our 2014 
trip two of us (Manfred Waltl, and Joseph Jordania) specially visited Kot Kindri with 


BEENA: THAK TIGRESS’S FIRST VICTIM 


79 


the intention to find out the identity of first victim of the Thak man-eater: the young 
girl, killed under a mango tree, and possibly to see the mango tree where she was taken. 

We were lucky to find out that the events of distant 1938 are still alive in the vil- 
lager’s memory. They provided us with the tigress’s young victim’s name and showed 
us the mango tree where she was taken. Interestingly, our informants remembered 
the victim with two names, (1) mostly as Beena, and also (2) as Kiri. Both names are 
popular in India, The name Beena is of Arabic origin and means “clearsighted.” The 
origin of the name Kiri is Hindu, and the meaning is “Amaranth flower.” Both are 
female names. 

It is difficult for us to be sure whether the unfortunate girl was known by both 
names to the villagers, or only one of these two names is the correct one. 

We found out an interesting difference in date of killing of the girl between Corbett 
story, and the villager’s memory. According to the Kot Kindri villagers, the girl was 
killed in August. Corbett mentions September, but closer reading of Corbett story 
tells us there is no conflict between these two sources. According to Corbett, “...in 
September ‘38 a report was received in Nainital that a girl, twelve years of age, had 
been killed by a tiger at Kot Kindri village.” According to villager, the girl was killed 
in August. So, as the news of the killing reached Corbett in Nainital in September, 
the actual killing could have easily happened during the last days of August. This 
supposition is confirmed by the newly found letter, written by Ibbotson on January 
13th 1939 (presented elsewhere in this book), where he mentions that tigress killed 
two of the first victims in August and September. 

In regards of the place of the killing, villagers had a clear memory of that it hap- 
pened under the mango tree, and that this happened in a densely populated part of 
the village, although on the edge of the village. Similarly, as the two possible names of 
the girl (Beena and Kiri), the same villagers told us that to their memory the killing 
had happened at one of the two places, both close to each other. These two places are: 

1. About 30 metres from the village spring (which is still functioning very actively), and 

2. About 70 metres from the village spring, next to the houses on the edge of the vil- 
lage, closer to the jungle. 

Both of these places could have been the venue of the tragedy as they both fit Cor- 
bett’s description. Both still have big mango trees. The first one, that is about 30 metres 
from the spring, has a very old mango tree. This tree was all black and dry during our 
visit in 2014, indicating that the tree did not have much more time left standing. The 
second mango tree is closer to the edge of the village, and it is not as old as the first 
one, and certainly not black and dry. We must remember though that mango trees 
can live very long, and some specimen still bear fruits when they are 300 years old. 
As the events from Corbett story took place some 80 years ago, and by the time when 
the girl was killed, the tree must have been already quite big (probably at least 30-40 
years old), the mango tree must be at least 120 years old. As mango trees can live much 
longer than this, Corbett fans have a good chance to see this (second) mango tree 


80 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


for many more years to come, although the first tree, already black and dry in 2014, 
the tree which is clearly visible from the spring, might not remain standing for many 
more years. It was under one of these mango trees the Thak man-eating tigress made 
the first kill, initiating the nail-biting story of a hunter and a man-eater stalking each 
other on the backdrop of the jungle paths and the streets of the deserted Thak village. 


81 


The Identity of the Thak Man-Eater’s Second 

Victim 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

In this section we discuss the identity of Sem Headman’s mother, the second victim 
of the Thak tigress, the last man-eater killed by Corbett on November 30th, 1938. There 
are no names of the people from the village Sem provided in Corbett story. 

Here is the Corbett’s description of the events of September - November of 1938: 

"While my preparations for this long trek were still under way a 
second report reached Nainital of a kill at Sem, a small village on 
the left bank of the Ladhya and distant about half a mile from Chuka. 

The victim on this occasion was an elderly woman, the mother of 
the Headman of Sem. This unfortunate woman had been killed while cut- 
ting brushwood on a steep bank between two terraced fields . She had 
started work at the further end of the fifty-yard-long bank, and had 
cut the brushwood to within a yard of her hut when the tiger sprang 
on her from the field above. So sudden and unexpected was the attack 
that the woman only had time to scream once before the tiger killed 
her, and taking her up the twelve-foot-high bank crossed the upper 
field and disappeared with her into the dense jungle beyond. Her son, 
a lad some twenty years of age, was at the time working in a paddy 
field a few yards away and witnessed the whole occurrence, but was 
too frightened to try to render any assistance. In response to the 
lad' s urgent summons the Patwari arrived at Sem two days later, ac- 
companied by eighty men he had collected. Following up in the direc- 
tion the tiger had gone he found the woman' s clothes and a few small 
bits of bone. This kill had taken place at 2 p.m. on a bright sunny 
day, and the tiger had eaten its victim only sixty yards from the hut 
where it had killed her." 

Record of the search 

As author of this chapter I visited Sem during my 2011 trip to Chuka and Thak, 
but at that time I did not enquire into the identity of the Thak tigress victims. During 
our 2012 visit to Chuka and Thak we did not visit Sem, but during our 2014 visit we 
(Manfred Waltl and Joseph Jordania) specially visited Sem and tried to find the house 
near which the second victim of the Thak tigress was killed. We also tried to establish 
the identity of the victim. Although we were not able to find out the victim’s name, 
we were lucky enough to learn her son’s name, little bit of their family background, 
and identified the house where the tragedy happened. 


82 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


According to the information received in the village, the victim’s son’s name was 
Madho Sing Kaldhunga. In 1938 he was, as we know from Corbett story, a young 
fellow (“a lad some twenty years of age”), and a village Sem headman. The third name 
Kaldhunga, according to the received information, was given to their family because 
the headman’s father or grandfather came from the village Kaldhunga, not far from 
the Chuka Village. (Do not confuse village Kaldhunga with the village Kaladhungi, 
the village where Corbett lived during the winter months.) 

To obtain the information about the 1938 events, we were directed to the 83 years 
old Prem Singh Rameshwar, the oldest Sem villager at the moment of our visit in 2014. 
We were able to ask him questions for about half an hour. He was enthusiastically 
answering our questions from his balcony, and Kamal was serving as a translator. At 
the beginning of our conversation, he (without our prompting) confirmed our initial 
guess about the locality of the house where the tragedy happened in 1938. In 1938 
Prem was only seven years old, but the impact of the event must have been great on 
the whole village community. His memory of the event (most probably from hearing 
the story many times from the villagers) was very clear. On the accompanying photos 
you can see the house where Madho Singh Kaldhunga’s family lived. The house is still 
occupied. His mother was killed very close to this house (Corbett: “within a yard of 
her hut”). You can see the photos of the house, where the Thak tigress second victim 
was killed, and also the photo of 83 years old Praem Singh Rameshwar, the oldest Sem 
villager at the moment of our visit in 2014, who provide us with this information. 


83 


A man who put Corbett on a career of hunting 

man-eaters 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

Several people played important role in Corbett’s life. Berthoud, Deputy Commis- 
sioner of Nainital, was definitely one of them. To put it simply, it was Berthoud who got 
Corbett into the dangerous business of hunting man-eating tigers and leopards. Here 
is how Corbett mentions Berthoud. This is a passage from the first page of Corbett’s 
arguably the most famous story about a notorious Champawat Man-Eating tigress: 

"This is how matters stood, when shortly after my arrival in Nain- 
ital I received a visit from Berthoud. Berthoud, who was Deputy Com- 
missioner of Nainital at that time, and who after his tragic death 
now lies buried in an obscure grave in Haldwani, was a man who was 
loved and respected by all who knew him, and it is not surprising 
therefore that when he told me of the trouble the man-eater was giv- 
ing the people of his district, and the anxiety it was causing him, 
he took my promise with him that I would start for Champawat immedi- 
ately on receipt of news of the next human kill. 

Two conditions I made, however: one that the Government rewards 
be cancelled, and the other, that the special shikaris, and regulars 
from Almora, be withdrawn. My reasons for making these conditions 
need no explanation for I am sure all sportsmen share my aversion to 
being classed as a reward-hunter and are as anxious as I am to avoid 
the risk of being accidentally shot. These conditions were agreed to, 
and a week later Berthoud paid me an early morning visit and informed 
me that news had been brought in during the night by runners that a 
woman had been killed by the man-eater at Pali, a village between 
Dabidhura and Dhunaghat . " 

From these paragraphs it is clear, that it was Berthoud who asked Corbett to go 
after the Champawat man-eater, starting a long chain of Corbett hunts after the man 
eating tigers and leopards. Also, it was in connection with Berthoud when Corbett 
formulated his central principle that he followed during his lifetime: asking to cancel 
the existing government rewards for killing man-eaters and asking that reward hunters 
be removed from the area. 

Berthoud was also involved in Corbett’s second man-eating tiger. Here are Corbett 
words: 

"When I returned to my home in Nainital after killing the Cham- 
pawat tiger I was asked by the Government to undertake the shooting 
of the Panar leopard. I was working hard for a living at the time and 
several weeks elapsed before I was able to spare the time to undertake 
this task, and then just as I was ready to start for the outlying area 


84 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


of Almora district in which the leopard was operating, I received an 
urgent request from Berthoud, the Deputy Commissioner of Nainital, to 
go to the help of the people of Muktesar where a man-eating tiger had 
established a reign of terror. After hunting down the tiger, an ac- 
count of which I have given, I went in pursuit of the Panar leopard." 

Despite playing such a prominent role in the beginning of Corbetts career, Ber- 
thoud’s name is only mentioned in the initial three man-eater hunting stories, and 
we know the reason from Corbett’s words: he died tragically. Well, Corbett does not 
actually mention the date of his death, but we know he died not long after Corbetts 
first successful hunts. 

So what do we know about Berthoud? This is what we were able to learn from 
various sources: 

His full name was Charles Henry Berthoud. His father, Alphonse Henry Berthoud 
of Basildon House, lived at 7-11 Moorgate Street, in London. 

Peter Byrne brought to us an interesting detail: according to Hewett, despite the 
fact that all Berthoud family appear to have impeccable English backgrounds, there 
could be some German connections, evidenced by Hewett’s statement that after Char- 
lie’s death he was given Charlie’s Rigby D.B. 400-450 cordite rifle, “by Baron Berthoud, 
who was, I assume [P.B.], Charlie’s father (Hewett, page 118).” We should note here 
thought that the title Baron was quite widely spread throughout Europe. 

We do not know yet Charlie Berthoud precise date of birth, but he was probably 
born around 1870. He died in 1909, not reaching 40. 

It is obvious that Berthoud was born in England, probably in London, and prob- 
ably at the address where his father lived (Basildon House, 7-11 Moorgate Street, 
London). His father, Alfonse Henry Berthoud, lived at this address in 1909, when 
Berthoud died. Charles Berthoud had a younger brother, Edward Henry Berthoud, 
who followed the same educational institutions, and arrived in India a couple of years 
later after Charles Berthoud. 

Charles Berthoud received a brilliant education. He was educated at Uppingham 
School, a famous school from small market town Uppingham in Rutland, England. 
School was established in 1584. Celebrated educator Edward Thring (1821 - 1887) 
transformed the School from a small, high-quality local grammar school of about 
25 students into a large, well-known public school, with 330 pupils. Thring was the 
headmaster of the school from 1853 until his death in 1887. Berthoud most likely 
studied there when Thring was a headmaster, and at the height of his fame. Thring 
won national and trans-Atlantic reputation as an original thinker and writer on edu- 
cation. At a time when Maths and Classics dominated the curriculum he encouraged 
many ‘extra’ subjects: French, German, Science, History, Art, Carpentry and Music. In 
particular Thring was a pioneer in his introduction of Music into the regular system of 
education. He also opened the first gymnasium in an English school, the forerunner 
of the present Sports Hall, and later added a heated indoor swimming pool. 


A MAN WHO PUT CORBETT ON A CAREER OF HUNTING MAN-EATERS 


85 


The fact that Queen Elizabeth II visited Uppingham school in 1984 (for the 400th 
anniversary of the school) is another confirmation of the historical importance of the 
school. List of famous people associate to this school is amazingly long and contains 
several well-known people from politicians and scholars to sportsmen and adventur- 
ers, including, among many others, comedian Rowan Atkinson and folklorist Cecil 
Sharp. Actor Hugh Jackman famously worked there as a teaching assistant during his 
gap year. 

Although we do not know exactly during which years was Berthoud at the school, 
it is highly possible that Hiring died while Berthoud was a student at his school. 

After graduating from school Berthoud received his university education at an- 
other prestigious institution, the New College at the Oxford University. Despite the 
name “New” the college is one of the oldest in Oxford and the world (was opened in 
1379). Berthoud had his final exams at Oxford in 1894. (This is the only date from 
Berthoud early life, available to me at the moment to make estimates about his birth 
date and school education years). 

After finishing his education, Berthoud arrived in India on December 4th, 1895. 
In India he worked in North-West Province, and in Oudh & Agra (later - United 
Province). He served as Assistant Magistrate and as a collector city magistrate, in 
Lucknow, from March 1901 to June 1903. Then he worked as Deputy Commissioner 
from December 1903 to November 1905 at the same location. From November 1905 
until his death in 1909 Berthoud was the Deputy Commissioner of Nainital. 

In 1907, while serving as a Deputy Commissioner of Nainital, Berthoud ap- 
proached Jim Corbett, and asked him to help the region to get rid of the man-eating 
tiger that killed hundreds of people in Kumaon. Corbett agreed, as, according to his 
words, Berthoud was loved by everyone, indicating that it was not easy for him or 
anyone else to reject a request from such a highly regarded and loved person. The 
mission was obviously extremely dangerous, and almost cost Corbett’s life. Berthoud 
then asked Corbett also about the Mukteswar man-eater. By his requests Berthoud 
unwittingly started Corbetts long and celebrated career as the slayer of the man-eater 
tigers and leopards. 

Berthoud died on December 28, 1909, after a short and severe bout of enteric 
fever, in Haldwani. By that time he was probably less than 40 years old. I deducted 
his age roughly from the fact that he passed his exam at Oxford in 1994, when he was 
probably no more than 24-25. Most of this information was received with the help of 
British Library reference services, and was from the Newspaper “Times of India” from 
December 29, 1909 (the day after he died). 

According to Corbett (see above the passage of the first story of his “Man-Eaters 
of Kumaon, “Champawat Man-Eater”), after his tragic death, Berthoud was buried in 
Haldwani. During his 1975 visit to Haldwani, Peter Byrne photographed what was 
believed by locals to be Berthoud’s gravestone. Peter also photographed writing on the 


86 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


gravestone, but it is extremely difficult to read. We know that Corbett mentions that 
Berthoud was buried in an “obscure grave in Haldwani,” so probably even in Corbetts 
time the gravestone was not in a good shape. 

According to British Library Reference Services they do not have any records 
about the burial place of Charles Berthoud, and in fact, there is no direct information 
that there was a British cemetery anywhere in Haldwani. 

So the matter requires further study. But it is clear that Charles Henry Berthoud 
played an important role in Corbett’s life and should be appreciated by Corbett fans 
accordingly 12 . 


12 


Pictures of Charlie Berthoud are published in Sir John Hewetts book- Jungle Trails in Northern 
India- 1938, which also contains accounts of many Tiger hunts by British officers, including those of 
some maneaters in the Kumaon and Garhwal areas 


87 


Other Characters Alluded to in the Champawat 
chapter in Man-eaters of Kumaon 

By PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

“I was shooting with Eddie Knowles in Malani when I first heard of the Tiger 
which later received official recognition as the ‘Champawat maneater’- thus starts the 
first chapter in Corbett’s iconic book ‘Maneaters of Kumaon’, 1944. 

Corbett ventures to describe Eddie Knowles as a shikari par excellence and an 
individual who possessed the best of everything in life. 

Corbett mentions a brother of Eddie as the ‘best gun shot in India’ and another 
brother as the best tennis player in the Indian Army 

“When therefore Eddie informed me that his brother-in-law, the best shikari in 
the world, had been deputed by Government to shoot the Champawat man-eater, it 
was safe to assume that a very definite period had been put to the animal’s activities”, 
writes Corbett, without further going into the identities of the characters he alluded 
to in an important part, the opening, of the first chapter of his first official book. 
Needless to say, the identities of these characters are of interest to Corbett fans 
Information was gleaned about the three Knowles brothers and their brother-in- 
law. All were proficient hunters. Colonel J.K Knowles would be the ‘best tennis player 
in the Indian army’, who is pictured having shot a tiger in the book ‘In the grip of 
the Jungles’ - 1932 by George Hogan Knowles, whom Corbett describes as the ‘best 
gun shot in India’. G.H Knowles authored a number of books on exciting jungle trails. 

Contained in the aforementioned book by G.H. Knowles, is a picture of B.A. 
Rokeby, who is said to also be known also as B.A. Rebsch of the Indian Forest Service, 
Knowles’ brother-in-law. In all probability, B.A. Rebsch’s wife was Nellie Knowles, sis- 
ter of Col. J.K, Eddie and George. That Rebsch was a famous hunter is beyond doubt, 
for in addition to Corbett’s lavish testimonial - ‘the best shikari in the world’, references 
are also found in other books of the period. Sir S. Eardley Wilmot, Inspector-general 
of Forests, wrote about Rebsch thus in his book ‘Forest life and sport in India’, 1910 
"Mr. B. A. Rebsch, who has shot as much big game as any man in In- 
dia, developed here an interesting form of sport while in charge of 
these forests, that might still be practised with success. His aim 
was to circumvent the bears which nightly descend from the hills to 
feed on the wild fruits and roots in the plains below, and return 
before dawn to their mountain fastnesses ; and with this object he 
reached the Nepal boundary , then marked by a cleared ride 30 yards 
wide, before daylight , and posted sentinels in trees at convenient 
distances on either side of him. These men could look down towards 
the forest below, and with coming daylight could detect the bears 


88 


BYPRIYVRATGADHVI 


moving towards the hills, and thus were able to inform the sportsman 
of their approach by pre-concerted signals . Accordingly the bear, who 
was intent on crossing into foreign territory , was met on his arriv- 
al by the sportsman, with varying results ; at least on one occasion 
Mr. Rebsch was severely mauled by his opponent, but I suspect that 
he found satisfaction in giving the bear every opportunity to show 
fight, for his "shikari" complained in the vernacular idiom that he 
used to let the bear "climb on his neck" before firing." 

Further, two write-ups by B.A. Rebsch were found to have been published in the 
‘The Indian Forester’, one of the oldest surviving journals in the world. 

An article was found entitled ‘The commutation of previleges in Bahraich’, with 
notes on commuting wood privileges for villagers in the motipur range, Bahraich 
division, in volume XIX, 1893. 

A second write-up by Rebsch, entitled ‘The bamboo forests of the Ganges division’ 
was published in the same journal in volume 36, 1910. 

It would have been greatly interesting to read Rebsch documented jungle adven- 
tures, however, no such literature was found, and such was probably never written. As 
providence would have it, he was unsuccessful in his pursuit of the Champawat tigress, 
and this led to Jim Corbett embarking on his famed career of maneater hunting. 


89 


PART THREE: MYSTERY AND RESEARCH 


In this part of the book authors tackle several moments from Corbett stories and 
life that remain unanswered sufficiently in the existing Corbett biographies and other 
Corbett-related publications. The topics discussed in this part of the book are some 
of the most hotly debated subjects among Corbett fans and biographers: Who made 
the agonizing human scream from the deserted Thak village? What was behind the 
strange “ghostly” encounter Corbett experienced at night in a Champawat bungalow 
when he was hunting the Champawat man-eater? Did Corbett kill the man-eating 
leopard in Nagpur as this is stated in a letter from villagers that Corbett cites? Did 
Corbett kill the Ladhya man-eater in 1946? These are some, but not all the topics 
discussed in this part of the book. 

The reader will also find discussions on Corbett rifles and his surviving films, and 
also an article on our contemporary views on the problem of the big cats that start 
attacking humans. 

When trying to answer these lingering questions, authors of this book used their 
academic education and practical knowledge of scholarly research. The approach to 
these problems is purely academic and is based on the scholarly method and the bi- 
ological and psychological phenomena known to us today. 


90 


Mysterious Night Scream from the Deserted 

Thak Village 

By JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

One of the best known mysterious experiences that Corbett shares with the readers 
of his classic book “Man-Eaters of Kumaon” was hearing the sound of the agonizing 
screams of a dying human from the deserted mountain village Thak on the night of 
November 28th, 1938 13 . 

Here is how Corbett describes the event. In this scene Corbett is sitting concealed 
in a machan up in a tree in the hope of shooting a man-eater, using the carcass of a 
buffalo as bait. His machan is close to the totally deserted Thak village, where two 
weeks ago the man-eating tigress killed a villager. As every detail of Corbett’s descrip- 
tion is potentially important, here is the full text describing this event from the story 
“Thak man-eater”: 

"There was still sufficient daylight to shoot by when the moon, 
a day off the full, rose over the Nepal hills behind me and flooded 
the hillside with brilliant light . "..."The moon had been up two hours, 
and the sambur had approached to within fifty yards of my tree, when 
a kakar started barking on the hill just above the village. The kakar 
had been barking for some minutes when suddenly a scream which I can 
only very inadequately describe as 'Ar-Ar-Arr' dying away on a long- 
drawn-out note, came from the direction of the village. So sudden and 
so unexpected had the scream been that I involuntarily stood up with 
the intention of slipping down from the tree and dashing up to the 
village, for the thought flashed through my mind that the man-eater 
was killing one of my men. Then in a second flash of thought I remem- 
bered I had counted them one by one as they had passed my tree, and 
that I had watched them out of sight on their way back to camp to see 
if they were obeying my instructions to keep close together." 

"The scream had been the despairing cry of a human being in mortal 
agony, and reason questioned how such a sound could have come from 
a deserted village. It was not a thing of my imagination, for the 
kakar had heard it and had abruptly stopped barking, and the sambur 
had dashed away across the fields closely followed by her young one. 
Two days previously, when I had escorted the men to the village, I 
had remarked that they appeared to be very confiding to leave their 
property behind doors that were not even shut or latched, and the 
Headman had answered that even if their village remained untenanted 

13 According to Martin Booth, this happened in “September 1938” (pg. 141), which cannot be correct, 
as Corbett went to Thak in November. Corbett is very precise with the dates in Thak story, and 
according to him, the scream was heard two days before killing the tigress, on November 28 th , 1938. 


MYSTERIOUS NIGHT SCREAM FROM THE DESERTED THAK VILLAGE 


91 


for years their property would be quite safe, for they were priests 
of Purnagiri and no one would dream of robbing them; he added that 
as long as the tigress lived she was a better guard of their property 
if guard were needed than any hundred men could be, for no one in all 
that countryside would dare to approach the village for any purpose, 
through the dense forests that surrounded it, unless escorted by me 
as they had been." 

"The screams were not repeated, and as there appeared to be noth- 
ing that I could do I settled down again on my rope seat. At 10 p.m. 
a kakar that was feeding on the young wheat crop at the lower end of 
the fields dashed away barking, and a minute later the tigress called 
twice. She had now left the village and was on the move, and even if 
she did not fancy having another meal off the buffalo there was ev- 
ery hope of her coming along the path which she had used twice every 
day for the past few days. With finger on trigger and eyes strain- 
ing on the path I sat hour after hour until daylight succeeded moon- 
light, and when the sun had been up an hour, my men returned. Very 
thoughtfully they had brought a bundle of dry wood with them, and in 
a surprisingly short time I was sitting down to a hot cup of tea. The 
tigress may have been lurking in the bushes close to us, or she may 
have been miles away, for after she had called at 10 p.m. the jungles 
had been silent." 

"When I got back to camp I found a number of men sitting near my 
tent. Some of these men had come to inquire what luck I had had the 
previous night, and others had come to tell me that the tigress had 
called from midnight to a little before sunrise at the foot of 
the hill, and that all the labourers engaged in the for- 
ests and on the new export road were too frightened to go 
to work. I had already heard about the tigress from my men, 
who had informed me that, together with the thousands of 
men who were camped round Chuka, they had sat up all night 
to keep big fires going. 

"Among the men collected near my tent was the Headman of Thak, and 
when the others had gone I questioned him about the kill at Thak on 
the I2th of the month when he so narrowly escaped falling a victim to 
the man-eater . 

"Once again the Headman told me in great detail how he had gone to 
his fields to dig ginger, taking his grandchild with him, and how on 
hearing his wife calling he had caught the child' s hand and run back 
to the house where his wife had said a word or two to him about not 
keeping his ears open and thereby endangering his own and the child' s 
wife and how a few minutes later the tigress had killed a man while he 
was cutting leaves off a tree in a field above his house. 

"All this part of the story I had heard before, and I now asked 
him if he had actually seen the tigress killing the man. His answer 


92 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


was, no; and he added that the tree was not visible from where he had 
been standing. I then asked him how he knew the man had been killed, 
and he said, because he had heard him. In reply to further questions 
he said the man had not called for help but had cried out; and when 
asked if he had cried out once he said, 'No, three times' , and then 
at my request he gave an imitation of the man's cry. It was the same 
but a very modified rendering as the screams I had heard the previous 
night . " 

"I then told him what I had heard and asked him if it was possible 
for anyone to have arrived at the village accidentally, and his an- 
swer was an emphatic negative. There were only two paths leading to 
Thak, and every man, woman, and child in the villages through which 
these two paths passed knew that Thak was deserted and the reason 
for its being so. It was known throughout the district that it was 
dangerous to go near Thak in daylight, and it was therefore quite im- 
possible for anyone to have been in the village at eight o'clock the 
previous night. 

"When asked if he could give any explanation for screams having 
come from a village in which there could not according to him have 
been any human beings, his answer was that he could not. And as I 
could do no better than the Headman it were best to assume that nei- 
ther the kakar, the sambur, nor I heard those very real screams, the 
screams of a human being in mortal agony." 

This chapter is devoted to the search of the possible source of this mysterious 
sound Corbett heard some 75 years ago. 

Before we try to explain what could have been the source of the mysterious scream 
from the deserted village, let us agree on several premises: 

(1) We cannot speculate that Corbett did not hear the agonizing scream. Corbett 
was revered for his legendary honesty, and he has never been known to make up details 
of his hunts in order to dramatize his stories. Also, as the scream was heard by other 
animals as well (sambhar, kakar), there is no chance of considering that the scream 
was a result of Corbetts imagination; 

(2) For the purpose of research, let us discount any supernatural explanations for 
of these screams either; 

(3) The scream was a close (or even precise) copy of the agonizing scream pro- 
duced by a man killed two weeks before (on November 12th) by a man-eating tigress; 

(4) The scream was not made by a human being, as not a single human was in the 
village when the scream was heard; 

(4) The scream did not belong to any animal species of Kumaon. Corbett was a 
brilliant expert in the animal and bird sounds of Kumaon and he could have identified 
the sound if it resembled any of the usual sounds made by Kumaon animals or birds; 


MYSTERIOUS NIGHT SCREAM FROM THE DESERTED THAK VILLAGE 


93 


(5) The tiger (the actual man-eater, whose victim made the scream two weeks 
before) was in the vicinity where the scream came from, as is obvious from the kakar 
barks and tiger calls from the excerpt cited above. 

Analysing all the information provided by Corbett, the only conclusion we can 
draw is that the scream was made by some animal. The question is which animal, 
and why Corbett, who was an expert in animal sounds of the region, was unable to 
identify the sound of the animal? 

First let us briefly discuss whether there have been any attempts to explain the 
source of the mysterious sound heard by Corbett from the deserted village. 

We are not aware of any published research into the mysterious scream aiming to 
explain the source of the scream heard by Corbett, but some ideas have been expressed 
on associated topics. For example, Kenneth Anderson once suggested, that tigers could 
sometimes mimic the calls of some of their prey. George Flogan Knowles too, in his 
book, ‘In the grip of the jungles’, 1932, credited a tiger with the ability to mimic the 
sounds of a wild bull to attract other bulls. He cites one of the participants as saying 
‘I have known a tiger before to imitate perfectly the bell of a sambhur, and even a 
cheetal to get his mutton easily and lazily, but here, enacted in front of us, is a case of 
a tiger actually calling out a wild bull, resorting to every trick- even to the raising of 
dust- to perfect his camouflage!” 

As a tiger (the actual man-eater) was present at the scene where the scream was 
heard, we should discuss this possibility as well. Here is the extract from Kenneth 
Anderson’s story “The Striped Terror of the Chamala Valley” (From the book “Nine 
Man-eaters and One Rogue”, 1954, Allen & Unwin, 1954). Anderson is seating con- 
cealed in a tree in South Indian jungles, also at night: 

"I will not weary my readers by recounting how the hours dragged 
by until 6.30pm., when the fowl and day-birds of the forest had gone 
to roost, and the langurs had long since moved away from the hated 
presence of their two enemies, tiger and man. I was alone, except for 
an occasional night- jar that flitted, chirping, around my tree. At 
6.45 p.m. it was almost dark. The night-jar had now settled below me, 
and commenced its squatting call of 'Chuckoo-huckoo-chuckoo' , when I 
met one of the strange experiences that sometimes, but very rarely, 
fall to the lot of a wanderer in the Indian forests. 

"I had been told stories by jungle men, and had also read, that 
tigers, in particular localities only, imitate sambar and emit the 
belling call of a stag, presumably to decoy other animals of the same 
species to them, particularly the does . I had never placed much cre- 
dence in this story, and never experienced it myself. That evening, 
shortly after 6.45, the sudden solitary 'Dhank' of a sambar stag rang 
out from a thicket in the waning light, in the space still visible 
between the branch against which my rifle rested before me, and that 


94 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


immediately to the right, and from out of this thicket almost simul- 
taneously stepped the tiger. 

"Now there could not have been any sambar stag in that thicket, 
along with or just in front of the tiger, for I could not have missed 
its hoof beats as it ran from the spot. No Sambar would have stood 
there and allowed the tiger practically to touch it in passing. Be- 
yond that one 'Dhank' there was no other sound, when, as I have said, 
the tiger stepped into the open, and there was no possible doubt that 
the tiger had made the sound. Why it did so is a mystery, as it was 
not hunting. It had fed well earlier that morning and was now re- 
turning to another repast, so that there could have been no thought 
in its mind of decoying a sambar by imitating its call . I can only 
recount what actually happened, and what I experienced, and the fact 
that, beyond doubt, there was no sambar in that thicket when the ti- 
ger stepped out. I leave the rest to your own conjecture and conclu- 
sion. For my part, having heard it with my own ears, I have no alter- 
native but to believe the old tales I had read and heard of a tiger' s 
ability to mimic this sound." 

To comment on Anderson’s proposal, we need to state that thousands of tigers 
have lived in hundreds of zoos and even in private enclosures, in very close proximity 
to humans, for many decades (if not centuries), and there is not a single credible case 
of tigers mimicking animal (or human) sounds. Although tigers have a wide range of 
sounds to communicate with each other, their vocal apparatus is not flexible to be able 
to mimic other animal sounds. Later we will discuss where the sound of a sambhar 
stag could come from, but now let us come back to Corbetts experience. 

Peter Byrne, professional hunter and author of books on Corbett, in a response to 
the letter from one of the authors of this text, wrote that the mysterious sound heard 
by Corbett could have been made by a Himalayan bear. Here are the excerpts from 
his letters from June 16th and 18th: 

(Letter of June 16th, 2012): “POSSIBLY IT WAS A HIMALAYAN BEAR. FROM 
TIME TO TIME, FOR REASONS THAT DO NOT SEEM TO BE CLEARLY KNOWN, 
THESE ANIMALS WILL MAKE POWERFUL ROARING SCREAMS... THE AMER- 
ICAN BLACK BEAR DOES THE SAME THING... I HAVE HEARD BOTH. 

(From the letter of June 18th: 2012): I AM OF COURSE NOT CERTAIN THAT 
WHAT CORBETT HEARD WAS A BEAR. IF IT WAS [A BEAR], IT WOULD HAVE 
BEEN ONE OF TWO SPECIES FOUND IN THE TERAI: THE HIMALAYAN BEAR 
OR THE SLOTH [BEAR], OF THE TWO, THE SLOTH IS MORE COMMON IN 
THE TERAI FORESTS. THERE ARE A FEW HIMALAYAN ENCOUNTERED 
FROM TIME TO TIME BUT THEY TEND TO STAY HIGHER. 

IN THE HIMALAYA, IN THE FORTIES AND FIFTIES, FROM TIME TO TIME 
WE HEARD SOME STRANGE CALLS AT NIGHT. OUR SHERPAS SAID THEY 
WERE MADE BY THE YETI. SO WE DID SOME CAREFUL RESEARCH AND 


MYSTERIOUS NIGHT SCREAM FROM THE DESERTED THAK VILLAGE 


95 


FOUND OUT THAT THERE WERE TWO ANIMALS UP THERE THAT MADE 
STRANGE NOCTURNAL CALLS. ONE, WHICH WE HEARD ON A REGULAR 
BASIS, (MOSTLY ABOVE 10,000 FEET) WAS THE KASTURI - THE MUSK DEER. 
THE OTHER, HEARD LESS OFTEN (FOR ME THREE TIMES OVER THE YEARS) 
WAS THE HIMALAYAN BLACK BEAR. 

IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST HERE, WHERE I LIVE, BEAR ARE HEARD 
CALLING FROM TIME TO TIME. I HAVE HEARD THIS SOUND TWICE IN THE 
TIME I HAVE BEEN HERE AND AT ONE TIME, WITH OTHERS, ATTRIBUTED 
IT TO THE CREATURE KNOWN HERE AS THE SASQUATCH, OR BIGFOOT. 
THEN I WAS ABLE TO PINPOINT THE SOUND PRECISELY. 

THE SOUND IS BEST DESCRIBED AS A SCREAMING ROAR. STARING OFF 
AS A DEEP, POWERFUL, GUTTURAL ROAR AND THEN CLIMBING INTO 
A HIGH PITCHED SHRIEK. EACH SET OF CALLS LAST ABOUT FIVE SEC- 
ONDS AND THERE SEEM TO BE, USUALLY, TWO TO THREE CALLS IN THE 
SET, EACH TIME...” 

Another expert (who prefers to remain anonymous) of Jim Corbett hunts and life, 
and an expert in the wildlife of the Kumaon region, independently from Peter Byrne 
also proposed in an informal communication with one of the authors of this chapter, 
that that this sound could have been produced by a bear. 

The suggestion of bear making the human-like sounds is of course much more 
serious than a possibility of a tiger making such sounds, but there are still questions 
remaining with this suggestion. Firstly, same as in the case of tiger, bears have been in 
close proximity with humans and have never been known to imitate human sounds 
(or sounds of any other animals). Secondly, it is hard to imagine that Corbett, brilliant 
expert of the wildlife of Kumaon, did not know about the bear ability to make such 
sounds, and could not distinguish bear sounds from human sounds. Also, if we read 
Corbett words carefully it is easy to notice that the scream was not only a sound that 
sounded like a human scream, but it was the exact rendering of the agonizing scream 
made by the unfortunate man, killed about two weeks ago, scream made in the mo- 
ment when he was attacked and killed by the man-eater. 

It is understandable that those who try to interpret the loud scream, heard by 
Corbett, think of some big-bodied animals (tiger, bear), as a big sound should come 
from a big body. But possibly the animal which made the sound was not big at all? 

To interpret the mysterious scream that Corbett heard on November 28th, 1938, 
we suggest that birds must be our prime suspects. Let us explain. 

Of course, birds are very small, compared to humans, tigers or bears, but they are 
prodigious singers and among the loudest animal species on our planet. Some of their 
sounds are extremely loud and can be heard miles away. And finally and possibly most 
importantly for our topic, a number of birds are masters of imitation and can produce 
novel sounds that are totally alien to the audio repertoire of their species. 


96 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


We need to take into account in the most serious way the fact that the ability to 
mimic different sounds is chiefly connected to the ability to sing. Singing needs a very 
flexible vocal apparatus, and this is the reason why some singing species are able to 
mimic other species’ sounds. Corbett himself killed the man-eating tigress two days 
after hearing the above-mentioned scream by imitating the mating call of the male 
tiger. Corbett was able to imitate the sound of other species because he was a human, 
and humans can sing. 

Experts in animal singing and the origins of human musicality somehow ne- 
glected the fascinating fact that singing, as a phenomenon, is virtually absent among 
ground-living species of animals. Out of about 5400 species which are known to sing, 
most live on tree branches (for example, birds and gibbons), and few of the singing 
species live in water (seals, whales, dolphins, sea lions). The only species which lives 
on the ground and sings, is us, humans. Why ground living animals do not sing is a 
complex issue (mostly it is connected to the differences in security of three-dimension- 
al environment in the trees and the two-dimensional environment of the ground) 14 . 
Basically, tree-living species are much noisier than ground-living species, and the 
fact that singing occurs in tree-living species makes sense. Therefore, if you need to 
interpret any unusual sounds coming from a forest, or a jungle, we suggest you should 
think first of what kind of birds could produce (or copy) such sounds. 

So, here are the first tentative conclusions of our research: (1) the most realistic 
possibility, from the biological point of view is that it was a bird that made a call on 
November 28th, 1938; and also, (2) the scream was not a natural call for a bird. Instead 
the bird copied the agonizing scream of the tiger’s human victim, heard several days 
before. (3) This must have been the reason why Corbett, brilliant expert in animal 
and bird sounds of Kumaon could not identify the source of the scream - this was 
not a natural sound made by a bird. That was the reason why Corbett was sure that 
the scream was made by a human in mortal agony. 

The next important step of our research is to check if birds can imitate sounds 
from hearing the original sound only once. Basically this is a question of how fast 
birds are in learning new sounds. 

Let us listen to the German scholar Konrad Lorenz, the winner of a Nobel Prize, 
and one of the founders of the study of animal communication: 

“First of all, birds can learn sounds that are totally unrelated to their species’ vo- 
cabulary: ‘Mocking’ consists of sounds, learned by imitation, which are not innate and 
are uttered only while the bird is singing; they have no ‘meaning’ and bear no relation 
whatsoever to the inborn ‘vocabulary’ of the species” 15 . 

14 If the reader is interested in getting more information on this topic, we suggest reading "Why Do 
People Sing? Music in Human Evolution”, Logos, 2011 (by J. Jordania) 

15 Konrad Lorenz. 1961. King Solomon’s Ring, Thomas Y, Crowell Company, New York, Apolo 
Edition, pg 84. The book can be accessed online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/39533656/Konrad- 
Lorenz-King-Solomon-s-Ring 


MYSTERIOUS NIGHT SCREAM FROM THE DESERTED THAK VILLAGE 


97 


After these encouraging words comes some disappointment , as Lorenz writes 
about the difficulty of teaching birds novel sounds: “Everyone who has tried to drum a 
new word into the brain of starling or a parrot knows with what patience one must ap- 
ply oneself to this end, and how untiringly one must again and again repeat the word.” 

According to these words of the Nobel Laureate, it takes many repetitions and 
sheer patience to teach a new phrase or a word to a talking bird. This virtually over- 
rules the possibility that a bird could have learned the agonizing human cry, which 
the bird could hear only once. 

Remarkably, the case is not as lost as it might seem after reading these words. Let 
us continue citing Lorenz’s words in the next paragraph: 

“Nevertheless, such a bird can, in exceptional case, learn to imitate a word which 
they have heard seldom, perhaps only once. However this apparently only succeeds 
when a bird is in an exceptional state of excitement”. After these intriguing words the 
scholar tells the details of two cases when birds learned complex phrases in one (or 
very few) repetitions, and which, very importantly, he witnessed himself. 

In the first case Lorenz tells us a hilarious story of Papagallo, blue-fronted Amazon 
parrot, who belonged to Konrad’s brother. 

“As long as he lived with us in Altenberg, Papagallo flow just as freely around as 
most of my other birds. A talking parrot that flies from tree to tree and at the same time 
says human words, gives a much more comical effect than one that sits in a cage and 
does the same thing. When Papagallo, with loud cries “Where is the doc?” flew about 
the district, sometimes in a genuine search for his master, it was positively irresistible. 

“Still funnier, but also remarkable from a scientific point of view, was the following 
performance of the bird; Papagallo feared nothing and nobody, with the exception of 
the chimney-sweep. Birds are very apt to fear things that are above. And this tendency, 
associated with the innate dread of the bird of prey swooping down from the heights. 
So everything that appears against the sky, has for them something of the meaning 
of “bird of prey.” As the black man, already sinister in his darkness, stood up in the 
chimney stack and became outlined against the sky, Papagallo fell into a panic of 
fear and few, loudly screaming, so far away that we feared he might not come back. 
Months later, when the chimney-sweep came again, Papagallo was seating on the 
weathercork, squabbling with the jackdaws who wanted to sit there too. All at once, 
I saw him grow long and thin and peer down anxiously in the village street; then he 
flew up and away, shrieking in raucous tones, again and again, “The chimney-sweep 
is coming! The chimney-sweep is coming!” The next moment, the black man walked 
through the doorway of the yard! 

“Unfortunately, I was unable to find out how often Papagallo had seen the chim- 
ney-sweep before and how often he had heard the excited cry of our cook which 
heralded his approach. It was, without a doubt, the voice and intonation of this lady 


98 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


which the bird reproduced. But he had not certainly heard it more than three times 
at the most and, each time, only once and with an interval of months.” 

The second case cited in Lorenz’s book “King Solomon’s Ring” is more dramatic. 
This is a story of a pet hooded crow, known as Hansl. Hansl belonged to another owner, 
but for some time Lorenz looked after him when the crow was unable to fly. When 
Hansl was healed and started to fly, the crow found himself attached to the German 
scholar, so he would often give him “flying visits”. After this background, the actual 
story line unfolds: 

“Once he [Hansl] was missing for several weeks and when returned, I noticed that 
he had, on one foot, a broken digit which had healed crooked. And this is the whole 
point of the history of Hansl, the hooded crow. For we know just how he came by this 
little defect. And from whom do we know it? Believe it or not, Hansl told us himself! 
When he suddenly reappeared, after his long absence, he knew a new sentence. With 
the accent of true street urchin, he said, in lower Austrian dialect, a short sentence 
which, translated in broad Lancashire, would sound like “Got ‘im in t’bloomin’ trap!” 
There was no doubt about the truth of this statement. Just as in case of Papagallo, a 
sentence which he had certainly not heard often, had stuck in Hansls memory because 
he had it in a moment of great apprehension that is immediately after he had been 
caught. How he got away again, unfortunately, Hansl did not tell us” 16 . 

As we can see, according to Konrad Lorenz, there is credible evidence (witnessed 
by the scholar himself) that a singing bird can learn a completely new and very com- 
plex sentence by hearing it only once. Now, if we compare the two articulated phrases, 
remembered and flawlessly pronounced with all the details, including personalized 
voice imitation and the dialect by a parrot and a hooded crow on one side, and the 
agonizing scream of a tiger victim on the other side, it is obvious that for a talented 
bird copying a human scream must have been much easier than copying articulated 
phrases. 

Another important detail that must be taken into consideration when discussing 
this issue is that the scream was heard at night. This suggests that the bird that copied 
the scream must have been active at night (unless we allow the possibility that daytime 
birds can vocalize at night, possibly in their dream). This narrows our search for the 
possible species of the birds that could have produced a copy of the novel sound, as 
most of the singing birds are active during the day. 

There are still a few singing birds active at night in India, including the Kumaon 
region, and we are going to discuss them next. 

One of them is the nightjar. As a night species, the nightjar tries to stay immobile 
and unnoticed during the day. For this the nightjar is colored in cryptic colors to match 


16 Lorenz, King Solomons Ring, pg 87-88. See also Edward Armstrong, A Study of Bird Song. 1963. 
Oxford University Press, section “Factors affecting the learning and reproduction of mimicries”, pg. 
81. 


MYSTERIOUS NIGHT SCREAM FROM THE DESERTED THAK VILLAGE 


99 


the colors of the tree branches and bushes. It nests on the ground, and prefers dense 
bushes in which to hide from the possible predators during the daytime. 

Could a nightjar have learned the agonizing scream of the tigress victim after just 
one hearing? According to Lorenz, the birds can learn new sounds immediately if the 
experience is accompanied by dramatic events, or at least events that seems dramatic 
to the bird. As we know, the bird was not a victim of the tiger attack, but in the same 
way we can say that the chimney-sweep was not endangering the life of Papagallo, 
but nevertheless the parrot was dead scared by the black human figure. The sudden 
scream and the scene of the violent attack must have been quite shocking for the bird 
if the bird was only a few metres away from the actual attack site. As we know from 
Corbetts description, the tiger attack occurred not far from the “dense brushwood 
bordering the field”, and the nightjar, as we know, is a night species which tries to stay 
unnoticed during the day on tree branches or the ground among bushes. Therefore 
there is a good chance that the bird could have been concealed very close to the attack 
scene and was subsequently shocked by the sudden scream and violent attack. 

Therefore, here is a preliminary reconstruction of the tiger attack scene and the 
resulting night scream from the deserted village: 

On the 12th November, during the daytime, a nightjar was concealed in the thick 
bushes near the village lands. The tigress attack on a Thak villager happened very 
close to the place where the bird was hiding during the daytime. The loud scream 
and possibly the scene of the fatal violence was a shock for the concealed bird, and 
as a result, the loud scream was imprinted in the memory of the bird. It is difficult 
to speculate whether the bird repeated the mortal scream again between November 
12th and November 28th. On November 28th, at night, as Corbett was sitting up in 
the tree, waiting for the tigress, the bird, who, according to its lifestyle, was active 
at night, most likely saw the tigress (who, from Corbett’s words we know was in the 
village and was on the move), and gave the sound that was associated with the bird’s 
experience of seeing the tiger. 

But the “nightjar hypothesis” has one serious problem if it is to be seriously con- 
sidered as a candidate for the author of the mysterious night scream. According to our 
current knowledge, nightjars belong to an order of birds known as Caprimulgiformes, 
and there is no evidence that they can learn novel sounds and imitate other species’ 
sounds. They can sing, but they cannot copy novel sounds. 

Therefore, either we should assume that (1) ornithologists are not aware of all the 
audio abilities of nightjars, or that (2) the scream was made by another bird species. 

Is it possible that scholars are not aware of the vocal learning abilities of the night- 
jar? 

That is unlikely. But we still need to remember that according to the information 
available about this bird, the nightjar is one of the most secretive birds, and many of 
its behaviours are still shrouded in mystery. No nightjar has been kept as a pet either. 


100 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


We know for sure that they have a peculiar song, which resembles the sound of a mo- 
torbike heard from a distance, and we also know that they can sing using more usual 
bird-like whistling (and yodelling) sounds. On rare occasions they also sing during 
the day. Because of their secretive lifestyle the nightjar’s identity was connected with 
superstitions. Ancient Greeks believed that nightjars could milk the goats, and their 
Latin name “kaprimulgus” means “goat sucker”. The Russian name for the nightjar is 
“kozodoi” - meaning the same “goat sucker”. Apart from this erroneous belief, there 
was also an often-repeated unconfirmed report that nightjars can transport their eggs 
from their nests to more secure places carrying the eggs in their mouths. For a bird, 
active in the dark, and not kept in captivity, it should not be surprising that the nightjar 
has prompted a few superstitions and false beliefs. 

So, if we believe that the audio repertoire of the nightjar is exhaustively known to 
ornithologists, then the scream could not have been made by a nightjar. On the other 
hand, if we still have some doubts about the behaviour of this secretive bird, there still 
might a possibility of a nightjar learning novel sounds is exceptional circumstances. 

Hardly anyone would disagree that most of the currently available information on 
the bird’s ability to mimic different sounds (particularly human voices) comes from 
studies of captive birds. Unless nightjars are observed in captivity, in close everyday 
contact with humans, we should not conclude that we know all the potential repertoire 
of this secretive bird. 

Unfortunately, the advantages of animals mimicking the ability of other species’ 
sounds in often neglected, although it is obvious that well-mimicked sounds can pro- 
foundly confuse an intended listener and give a crucial advantage to the mimicking 
animal. We can all agree that the Thak man-eating tigress was shocked when, following 
the call of a male tiger, she suddenly found herself facing her mortal enemy - a hunter 
with a loaded heavy rifle. Unlike the tigress, for whic this confusion was the last thing 
that happened in her short and troubled life, Corbett lived many years after hearing 
the mysterious night scream from the deserted village and shared his experience with 
millions of the readers of his books in dozens of languages. 

Anyway, we should look at the possibility that a nightjar made the mysterious 
night scream at best with a great deal of suspicion. And, of course, we should remem- 
ber that the nightjar is by no means the only candidate for the role of author of the 
night scream that almost sent Corbett running to the deserted village. There are several 
other and much more talented singers and mimics from the Himalayan foothills in 
Kumaon. Let us briefly discuss some of them: 

• The Common Hawk-Cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius), popularly known as the Brain- 
fever bird, is a medium-sized cuckoo resident in South Asia. In India it is called 
Papiha. It is active during the day, and also in the dark. The species-specific call of 
this bird, resembling the phrase “brain fever”; can be often heard in India, including 
the Himalaya foothills. As a matter of fact, one of these birds was so active and so 
loud at night, that some of the members of our party, camped in the deserted village 


MYSTERIOUS NIGHT SCREAM FROM THE DESERTED THAK VILLAGE 


101 


Thak (the place where Corbett heard the mysterious scream) in April 8-12, 2012, 
had problems going to sleep. The downside of this candidate is that cuckoos are not 
known for learning songs and novel sounds. 

• A more realistic suspect for the night scream is the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 
(Dicrurus paradiseus). This is a medium-sized beautiful bird, widely spread in Asia. 
It is particularly important for us that drongos are widely known for their imita- 
tive abilities regarding many different species of birds (Corbett also mentions this). 
They are mostly diurnal but are active well before dawn and late at dusk. Owing to 
their widespread distribution, they have plenty of variations. Himalayan drongo is 
known as grandis. This is the largest subspecies, with long glossy neck hackles. The 
downside of this suggestion is that although they are good mimics, they have not 
been know to scholars for mimicking human speech and human voices 17 . Although 
the agonizing scream would not qualify as speech and would have been easier for 
the drongo to mimic. 

• And finally, the best candidate for the role of the author of the mysterious night 
scream at Thak seems to be the Common Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa). This is a 
very loud bird, able to produce an amazing variety of vocal signals. The bird is most 
vocal at dawn and dusk when it is found in small groups in forest clearings high 
in the canopy. According to Wikipedia: “Both sexes can produce an extraordinarily 
wide range of loud calls - whistles, wails, screeches, and gurgles, sometimes melo- 
dious and often very human-like in quality.” They rarely use their imitative abilities 
in the wild, but in captivity Common Hill Mynas are among the most renowned 
mimics, challenging even the African Grey Parrot in imitating human speech and 
human sounds with amazing accuracy and clarity. 

In conclusion we can say that the Common Hill Myna seems to be the best can- 
didate as the source of the mysterious night scream from the deserted Thak village 
that shocked Corbett on November 28th, 1938. Although not everyone might agree 
on the identity of the bird species (and there can be other candidates), it is almost 
certain that the scream was made, or more precisely, copied, from the original scream 
on November 12th, by a mimicking singing bird. 

Now we would like to come back once again to the mysterious sambhar stag sound 
heard by Kenneth Anderson in the South Indian jungles, and propose that the sound 
that Anderson heard was most likely produced by a singing bird. A nightjar (which, 
according to Anderson, was present at the scene) would have been perfect, but as 
nightjars are not known to learn novel sounds, we need to search for the imitator 
among other bird species. The identity of the actual bird might remain a mystery, but 
for the possibility that it was a bird, who imitated a sound of a sambhar stag, seems 
quite strong. Was it Common Hill Mynah? Possibly. 


17 


Goodale, E. & Kotagama, S. W. 2006. Context dependent vocal mimicry in a passerine bird. Proc. 
Roy. Soc. Lond. Ser. B, IT'S, 875-880 


102 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PREETUM GHEERAWO, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


Therefore we suggest that both cases, described by two of the possibly most famous 
hunters of the Indian jungles, with Corbett hearing the human scream in mortal ag- 
ony, and Anderson hearing the call of a stag sambhar, were most likely produced by 
mimicking birds, active at night (or dusk). We could also speculate that in the same 
way as the image of the much-feared chimney-sweep prompted Papagallo to produce 
the human words associated with his fear of the dark figure of the chimney-sweep, the 
same way seeing a tiger could have prompted the talented mimicking bird to produce 
the sounds most likely connected to the bird’s previous audio experiences. According 
to Armstrong, “Birds not only learn sounds but also establish associations between 
them and persons, animals, or contemporaneous events.” 18 

And finally, we should remember that the night when Corbett heard the scream 
from a deserted village was brilliantly lit with moonlight: “There was still sufficient 
daylight to shoot by when the moon, a day off the full, rose over the Nepal hills behind 
me and flooded the hillside with brilliant light.” This fact is also extremely important, 
as the bright moonlight is well-known to trigger higher bird singing activity (see, for 
example, Mills, 1986) 19 . 

And a critical note at the end: it seems that Corbett’s memory was not precise 
about one detail: in November 1938, the full moon was seen on November 8 and then 
on December 7. So on November 28 the moon could not be full, it was the first quarter. 
Most likely the moonlight was very bright on that night, and the air was very clear, 
and gave Corbett the impression of the full moon. Let us one more time remember 
how Corbett describes the clear air on that evening: “the rain of the previous night 
had cleared the atmosphere of dust and smoke and after the moon had been up for 
a few minutes the light was so good I was able to see a sambhar and her young one 
in a field of wheat a hundred and fifty yards away.” Also, apart from the clear air, we 
should remember that the first quarter moon has its pick time at around 9pm, almost 
exactly the time when Corbett heard the agonizing scream. 

Conclusion 

So we can conclude that on the night of 28th November 1938 Corbett heard the 
perfect copy, the virtual “audio-recording” of the dramatic story of the tiger fatal attack 
on a Thak villager, that happened on November 12th, more than two weeks before, re- 
told to Corbett by a talented witness to the attack, a singing bird (most likely the Com- 
mon Hill Myna). The scene of lethal violence, witnessed by the Myna (possibly from 
a very close range) stayed in the memory of the bird, and later the bird reproduced 
the loud scream, associated with the appearance of the source of violence - the tiger. 


18 Edward Armstrong, A Study of Bird Song. 1963. Oxford University Press, section “Factors affecting 
the learning and reproduction of mimicries”, pg. 82. 

19 Mills, A.M. 1986. The influence of moonlight on the behaviour of goatsuckers ( Caprimulgidae ). Auk 
103:370-378. 


MYSTERIOUS NIGHT SCREAM FROM THE DESERTED THAK VILLAGE 


103 


It is symbolic that after two days of hearing the mysterious agonizing human 
scream from the deserted village, most likely produced by a mimicking bird, Corbett 
himself concluded the last hunt of his illustrious career as a slayer of man-eating ti- 
gers and leopards by mimicking himself the mating call of a tiger. And who knows, 
possibly hearing the deceptive night scream from the deserted village was responsible 
for the idea that came to Corbett two days later, on the last day of his long hunting 
career of man-eaters: the idea to lure the clever and elusive tigress by imitating the 
call of her mate 20 . 


20 


Note from the authors: Authors want to express gratitude to Peter Slater, Professor Emeritus from 
the University of St Andrews, UK, the expert on bird communication, for his professional comments 
during the work on this chapter. 


104 


The Mystery of Champawat Bungalow 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

. . though I claim I am not superstitious, 

I can give no explanation for the experience 
I met with at the bungalow while hunting the 
Champawat tiger, and the scream I heard 
coming from the deserted Thak village." 

Jim Corbett, Temple Tiger 

Arguably the best known and most mysterious moment of Corbett writings is his 
scary and baffling experience that he had in Champawat bungalow. Many Corbett fans 
know this experience as “Corbett’s ghost experience.” 

In the very first story of his classic book, “Man-Eaters of Kumaon”, the story of the 
Champawat man-eater, Corbett briefly mentions a mysterious experience that he had 
during one night spent in a Champawat bungalow in 1907. This happened two nights 
before he killed the Champawat man-eater, the most prolific man-eater in recorded 
human history, which killed and ate 436 Nepalese and Indians. Let us first of all read 
what Corbett himself writes about his experience. 

During that day Corbett covered many miles to check a report of an alleged tiger 
kill, but found that it was a leopard which killed and partly ate the calf. So Corbett 
returned to the bungalow where he was going to spend a night together with his men 
and with a Tehsildar (an administrative officer in India): 

"On returning to the bungalow I found the Tehsildar was back, and 
as we sat on the verandah I told him of my day's experience. Express- 
ing regret at my having had to go so far on a wild-goose chase, he 
rose, saying that as he had a long way to go he must start at once. 
This announcement caused me no little surprise, for twice that day he 
had said he would stay the night with me. It was not the question of 
his staying the night that concerned me, but the risk he was taking; 
however, he was deaf to all my arguments and, as he stepped off the 
verandah into the dark night, with only one man following him carry- 
ing a smoky lantern which gave a mere glimmer of light, to do a walk 
of four miles in a locality in which men only moved in large parties 
in daylight, I took off my hat to a very brave man. Having watched him 
out of sight I turned and entered the bungalow. 

"I have a tale to tell of that bungalow but I will not tell it 
here, for this is a book of jungle stories, and tales 'beyond the 
laws of nature' do not consort well with such stories." 


THE MYSTERY OF CHAMPAWAT BUNGALOW 


105 


That’s it. These intriguing words are well known to all Corbett fans. Despite his 
promising words “I have a tale to tell of that bungalow” Corbett never returned to 
the events of that night in his later writings, leaving the interpretation of his words 
to the readers. 

So what kind of experience ‘beyond the laws of nature’ could Corbett have had at 
the Champawat bungalow? Why did the Tehsildar leave? Did the Tehsildar know there 
was ‘something wrong’ with this bungalow, and he was so afraid that he preferred to 
walk at night through the territory of the dreaded man-eater? 

This chapter is written to provide a scientific explanation for what kind of expe- 
rience Corbett could have had at the Champawat bungalow during his hunt for the 
Champawat man-eating tigress. 

First of all, let us try to figure out from the available sources as much as we can 
about what happened to Corbett that night in the bungalow. Fortunately, although 
Corbett himself never returned to the topic to describe in his usual candid and precise 
way what kind of experience he had, we still have some information which came from 
someone who was sharing the bungalow with Corbett that night. 

According to Maurice Nestor, brother of Ray Nestor, Corbett’s nephew, Corbett 
was not alone in the bungalow, for his faithful servant Bahadur Khan was there 21 . 
Bahadur was in the front part of the bungalow, while Corbett was sleeping alone in 
the room. The other men from Corbett’s party were in the firewood store behind the 
building. According to the words of Bahadur, the Tehsildar left because he knew that 
all would not be well in that bungalow, which was why he preferred to walk through 
the territory of the man-eater than stay at the bungalow. According to Maurice’s words, 
Bahadur later reported to one of Corbett’s sisters (either Ray’s mother or Maggie) that 
he heard Corbett being very noisy in his room, and later opened the door suddenly 
and came running straight to the veranda. Upon joining his master, Bahadur found 
him shirtless, with heavy drops of sweats everywhere, his hair completely wet with 
sweat also, breathing heavily. That woke up the other men who came to attend their 
master and Corbett simply told them he’d rather spend the rest of the night outside 
with them instead of inside. 

According to Maurice’s words, the second night (the night before the killing of the 
man-eating tiger) was also spent by Corbett at the bungalow, but instead of sleeping 
inside the room, he slept on the veranda, with his men setting up camp with a night- 
long fire to ‘cast away’ evil spirits. Bahadur, who was the only Muslim in the party, 
tried not to believe that something strange or unnatural happened, and did not report 
it as a supernatural experience to the family. 

21 We must take into account that the precise source of this information is not clear. According to 
Kristoff Kotecha, one of the authors of this book, information was provided to him by Jerry Jaleel, the 
Head of the Corbett Foundation. Jerry Jaleel knew Maurice Nestor in person. Questioned later about 
this, J. Jaleel did not confirm the story. So the story should be viewed with certain caution. 


106 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


Importantly, Corbett had at least one more very similar experience during his life. 
According to this information, provided by all of the major Corbett’s biographers, 
Corbett was on war duty with another governmental officer when they spent the night 
in the Raja’s house. Corbett was told to leave a particular room alone and locked, as 
it had a “bad reputation,” but he insisted on sleeping in it. During the night his com- 
panion heard a ruckus in the room, and the next moment Corbett dashed in through 
the connecting door out of breath (“panting for breath,” Kala, 2009:76) and sweating 
and slept the remainder of the night in his companion’s room. 

At breakfast next morning, he was asked what happened and this made him very 
upset and he abruptly left the table and asked never to be reminded of it again 22 . 

One more, not exactly similar, but still strange experience that could have hap- 
pened to Corbett is mentioned in Jerry Jaleel’s and D.C.Kala’s biographies. This infor- 
mation comes originally from the book “Leaves from Indian forests’ written by Sir S 
Eardley Wilmot on a ghostly experience that a certain “Mr. C.” had. He experienced 
a whirling dance by a pair of twinkling feet in a room in which he was spending the 
night. This dance was later identified as a female dance common in mujras (or dance 
performed by women in kothas- or brothels). Jaleel proposed this to fit with Corbett’s 
experience. However, it must be noted that upon reading the full chapter of the said 
book, this story has to be discounted vis-a-vis Corbett’s experience as it has very 
different, and dramatic, climax, including the death of one of the characters - this 
obviously is not related to Corbett’s story. 

Of these three experiences we will mostly discuss the first two, as they are very 
close to each other and the identity of Corbett is firmly established (unlike in the 
third case). 

First of all we need to clarify that unlike Corbett’s another famous “otherworldly 
experience” - hearing an agonizing human scream from the deserted Thak village 
(see the special chapter on this subject in this book) - in the Champawat bungalow 
and in Raja’s house Corbett did not have any witnesses to verify that the experiences 
themselves were real occurrences. From Corbett’s detailed description we know, for 
example, that the agonizing night scream in the Thak village some 31 years later was 
heard by the sambhar and her young one, as well as by kakar, who reacted to the 
sudden scream. None of Corbett’s experiences we are discussing in this chapter were 
shared by anyone else, so the first and most logical explanation would be that Corbett 
had strong and very vivid nightmares. 

We can all agree that hunting man-eating tigers can be a powerful factor in in- 
ducing nightmares. I remember myself having a couple of nightmares in my teenage 
years while reading Corbett’s book for the first time, so for a person who was actually 


22 


Another similar experience is described by Martin Booth in his biography (pg 139-140), although 
in this case Corbett and his friend were both affected by the experience. Booth cites the words of 
the third friend, who was allegedly not affected. No other details of the sources are revealed. 


THE MYSTERY OF CHAMPAWAT BUNGALOW 


107 


following the blood trail of a man-eater and was risking his own life, the occurrence 
of nightmares would be fully understandable. 

But even if we accept that Corbett had nightmares, there are plenty of unclear 
moments. For example, we know that even after the most awful nightmares people 
usually wake up and quickly realize that the horrendous visions and sensations were 
a nightmare, not a reality. Why Corbett did not realize these were just nightmares? 
Or possibly in Corbett’s case this was not a “simple” nightmare, but something else? 
Possibly there were some other, deeply hidden psychological condition and mecha- 
nisms at work? 

Searching for possible scientific explanations for Corbett’s experiences at the 
Champawat bungalow and the Raja’s house, I came to an extremely (for myself) un- 
expected conclusion. I am sure that my explanation will sound to most of the Corbett 
fans totally wrong. I have to say I myself initially laughed at the idea when it entered 
my mind for the first time. But a few minutes later, after I recalled several unusual 
facts from Corbett’s behaviour and life, I felt that this explanation must be very seri- 
ously considered. 

So here is the idea I am putting forward: 

I propose that at the Champawat bungalow Corbett suffered a claustrophobic 
panic attack. 

The idea that Corbett, one of the bravest humans that ever walked on our planet, a 
person who was able to follow the bloody trail of a man-eater on foot, alone, a person 
with steel nerves, could have suffered from panic attacks was as wild as ideas can get. 

But let us get over the first reaction and try to have a closer look at the scientifi- 
cally known facts. 

Claustrophobia is a very common condition among humans, connected to the 
fear of suffocation in closed places. According to widely available information on this 
condition (readers can consult, for example, Wikipedia), people with a predilection to- 
ward claustrophobia are afraid to stay in locked rooms, cars, tunnels, cellars, elevators, 
subway trains, caves, airplanes and crowded areas. When confined to such an area, 
claustrophobics begin to fear suffocation, believing that there may be a lack of air in the 
area in which they are confined. Claustrophobics often hate wearing ties and closely 
fitting clothes, as constraining clothes induce a feeling of suffocation. Many claustro- 
phobics remove clothing during panic attacks, believing it will relieve the symptoms. 
Medical examinations through an MRI machine are particularly known to induce se- 
vere claustrophobic fears, and it was reported that 13% of patients experienced a panic 
attack during the procedure 23 . The procedure has been linked not only to triggering 
‘pre-existing’ claustrophobia, but also to causing its onset in some people. 


23 


Thorpe, Susan, Salkovis, Paul M., & Dittner, Antonia. Claustrophobia in MRI: the Role of Cognitions. 
Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Vol. 26, Issue 8. Harold B. Lee Library. 3 June 2008. 


108 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


As claustrophobia can lead to severe panic attacks with the fear and feel of immi- 
nent death from suffocation, most claustrophobics who are aware of their condition do 
everything in their power to avoid situations that can trigger their claustrophobic fears. 

The occurrence of this psychological condition, according to medical research, is 
mostly connected to some early childhood traumatic memories. For example, a young 
child left locked in a dark room, or was stuck in a box, and other possible traumatic 
experiences connected to the fear of suffocation. 

We will discuss the possible traumatic experiences that could have triggered, in 
Corbett’s case, the appearance of the closet claustrophobic hallucinations, but let us 
first discuss the symptoms of claustrophobic panic attacks: 

1. fear of imminent death by suffocation, 

2. desire to remove clothing in order to alleviate symptoms, 

3. desire to be in the open space, 

4. heavy sweating, 

5. being out of breath 

Now, if we read once more the description of Corbetts behaviour on that night 
in the Champawat bungalow, given by Maurice Nestor, we will notice that the details 
of Corbett behaviour are very consistent with the symptoms of severe claustrophobic 
panic attacks: he was (1) very heavily sweating, (2) out of breath, and most importantly 
(3) he removed his clothing (his shirt) during the attack: 

“Upon joining his master, Bahadur found him shirtless, with heavy drops of sweat 
everywhere, his hair completely wet with sweat also, breathing heavily.” 

We do not know if Corbett had a feeling of approaching death by suffocation, as 
he himself never spoke of his feelings about these experiences, but the fact of removing 
the clothing strongly suggests that he was experiencing a claustrophobic panic attack, 
fear of suffocation. We also know that he refused to go into the bungalow again and 
slept the next night on the verandah. 

The account of the similar case in the Raja’s house does not provide such vivid 
details, and although we know that Corbett was covered with sweat, we do not know if 
his clothing was removed when he dashed out of the room. We only know that (1) he 
dashed out of his room in panic, (2) he was covered in sweat and panting for breath, 
(3) he did not want to come back to his room, and that (4) he did not want to talk 
about his night experience at all. 

Apart from these two events from Corbett’s life, there are several other very im- 
portant for our subject indications that Corbett was possibly suffering from closet 
claustrophobic fears of suffocation in closed places. Let me remind the readers some 
unusual patterns of Corbett behaviour that the reader might already paid attention: 

Corbett was known for his unusual characteristic of not sleeping inside his own 
house - he slept, as a rule, outside the house, in his tent. This fact is usually interpret- 
ed as indication of his love of outdoor living, but even among the people who love 


THE MYSTERY OF CHAMPAWAT BUNGALOW 


109 


outdoor living this kind of behaviour (sleeping in a tent in his own backyard, not in 
the bedroom) is still quite unusual. So it is possible to propose that he slept better 
when he was not confined between solid walls. In other times, when sleeping in his 
room, he always had all the windows wide opened, without a concern for the weather. 

Corbett was also known to opt for sleeping outdoors even when he was in the 
territory of a man-eater, when sleeping inside a house was a much safer option - for 
example, he spent his first night under a tree in the territory of a Champawat man-eat- 
er, and a couple of years later - on the territory of the Panar man-eating leopard. 

Corbett was also known for his hatred of a formal suit and tie. Suits and ties are 
known as the most constraining clothing for any person with claustrophobic fears. 
And as a surprisingly large number of our fellow humans are sensitive towards claus- 
trophobic situations, some of the readers of this book might also dislike ties. This 
brings the question of how correct it is to impose a formal tie and suit on employees at 
some workplaces, a practice strictly adhered to by some professions and work environ- 
ments. But we are not going to follow this argument here, so let us go back to Corbett. 

Corbett not only hated a formal suit and tie, but generally disliked any constrain- 
ing cloths. His favorite clothing, as many Corbett fans would remember, was shorts. 

As we can see, Corbett’s habit of sleeping in his tent instead of his house, his gener- 
al preference of staying outside of the houses when even on the territory of man-eaters, 
and his hatred for constraining cloths all give us indications that Corbett might have 
had deep claustrophobic fears. It is widely believed that any additional stress factors 
add to the possibility that a person will suffer a claustrophobic panic attack. In the 
Champawat bungalow Corbett definitely experienced a powerful stress factor, as he 
was following the trail of a man-eater. 

Apart from this powerful stress-inducing factor, at least one of the sources sug- 
gested that the Tehsildar left the bungalow and opted to go for a three-mile walk at 
night because he knew the house had a “bad reputation.” In this case if the Tehsildar 
was told about the fearful experiences during that day (as we know, he initially was 
going to sleep in the bungalow), he possibly would also have advised Corbett to stay 
out of the bungalow. If Corbett knew that some other people had a bad experience 
in this bungalow, this also could have added to the possibility of the appearance of 
nightmares. 

If you warn people before they go to sleep in a new place that the house has a 
“bad reputation” and that some people have had horrifying experiences there, there is 
a fair chance that some of them will have frightening experiences (nightmares) from 
a night spent at a “haunted house”. 

If this was really the case, and Corbett knew about the reputation of the bungalow, 
very much in line with his character he probably would have decided to stay in the 
bungalow. Another similar case (from the Raja’s house) strongly suggests that Corbett 
preferred to face his fears directly - we know that he was strongly advised not to sleep 


110 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


in a small locked room in the Raja’s house with a “bad reputation,” but he insisted on 
spending a night there. 

Therefore, Corbett had strong additional factors to induce his deep-seated claus- 
trophobic fears: the stress of following the man-eating tiger who had killed and eaten 
more than 400 humans, and also, possibly the factor of sleeping alone in a room with 
an unexplained “bad reputation.” During our 2014 trip we visited several times the 
bungalow where Corbett had his experience we are discussing in this chapter, and we 
must say the room where Corbett slept is very claustrophobic. It is has solid stone 
walls, has two small doors (going into other rooms), one door going to veranda, and 
a single small window. 

And let us remember a macabre detail (particularly for people with claustrophobic 
fears), that man-eating cats, tigers, leopards, and lions, kill their victims by suffoca- 
tion... 

Corbett writings provide another evidence of his claustrophobic fears when fac- 
ing tigers as competitors. According to his words from the story of Mohan tiger the 
encounter with tigers was affecting his normal breathing. Here are his words: 

"I do not know how the close proximity of a tiger reacts on oth- 
ers, but me it always leaves with a breathless feeling due possibly 
as much to fear as to excitement and a desire for a little rest" (Cor- 
bett, 1944: 136) 

Now let us address another very important question. Even if Corbett had a night- 
mare, why he did not realize after waking up that this was just a nightmare, like many 
of us do after nightmares? Why did he believe what happened to him was real? 

To explain this, we need to take into account the phenomenon of the “false awak- 
ening.” 

A severe claustrophobic panic attack can provoke very realistic and vivid halluci- 
nations. Such hallucinations can start during sleep, with so-called “false awakening.” 
In this state a person believes he is awake, but in fact he is still asleep, because “false 
awakening” often starts in a very realistic way - for example, a person suddenly wakes 
up in his own bed and sees (or feels) that someone (or something) is also in the same 
room, or even is sitting on his bed. So the sense of reality is very strong and vivid. 
According to Jerry Jaleel, Corbett felt the presence of “some unknown force while he 
spent the night at that bungalow, and it was not the first time he experienced such 
super natural incidents” (from Jerry Jaleel letter from May 1, 2015. Information was 
given to J. Jaleel by late Audrey Baylis. I am grateful to J. Jaleel for the information). 

According to Peter Byrne, he had a similar dream-like but very realistic experience 
during his hunting days. Here are his words from the letter of 23 June, 2012: 

“I TOO HAD AN EXPERIENCE LIKE THIS IN AN OLD DAK BUNGALOW... 
VERY STRANGE... WAKING UP AT NIGHT AND SEEING, VERY BRIEFLY, A 
YOUNG ENGLISH GIRL STANDING BY THE FIREPLACE, LIT BY THE GLOW 
OF A DYING FIRE... TO BE HONEST, I COULD HAVE BEEN DREAMING... I 


THE MYSTERY OF CHAMPAWAT BUNGALOW 


111 


HAD WALKED A LONG WAY THAT DAY AND WAS TIRED AND COLD WHEN 
I SETTLED DOWN FOR THE NIGHT; THE BUNGALOW WAS COLD AND SO 
I PUT MY SLEEPING BAG ON THE FLOOR IN THE LIVING-DINING ROOM, 
WHICH HAD A SMALL FIRE GOING, LAID MY RIFLE BESIDE ME-THERE 
WERE SUPPOSED TO BE DACOITS IN THAT AREA - AND SLEPT THERE. AS 
I SAY, I COULD HAVE BEEN JUST COMING OUT OF A DREAM. OR ... WHAT 
MIGHT HAVE AFFECTED ME AND MIGHT HAVE BEEN ON MY MIND THEN 
... WAS FINDING, NOT LONG BEFORE THAT, IN THE INDIAN FOREST, FAR 
AWAY FROM ANYWHERE, THE SAD AND LONELY GRAVE OF A YOUNG EN- 
GLISH GIRL. 

SHE FADED AWAY WITHIN SECONDS. BUT I COULD NOT GO BACK TO 
SLEEP. IT MAY HAVE BEEN ONLY A DREAM. BUT WHEN I SAW HER, OR 
THOUGHT I SAW HER, STANDING BY THE FIREPLACE, I WAS JERKED RIGHT 
UP INTO A SITTING POSITION... TO WATCH AS SHE FADED. I THEN GOT 
UP AND STOKED UP THE FIRE AND WRAPPED MY COVERS AROUND ME 
AND SAT UP FOR A WHILE. WONDERING NOT SO MUCH AT THE APPA- 
RANCE, BUT AT WHO SHE WAS. IN THE MORNING I ASKED THE DAK BUN- 
GALOW CHOWKIDAR IF HE KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT A YOUNG WOMAN. 
A DEATH MAYBE. HE SAID NO.” 

Some might ask if it is really possible for a normal person to have such vivid 
hallucinations that a person cannot understand this was not real. 

Yes, this is possible and many such cases are well-documented. We know that 
people can suffer from such irrational things as severe pain in amputated limbs. This 
is a so called “phantom pain.” In such cases the pain is very real, although the subject 
of the pain (for example, a painful leg) is absent and the patients can see that they do 
not have the part of the body that gives them such excruciating pain. Most of such 
irrational feelings are brain-induced experiences, and these feelings are very realistic. 
Let me mention another very interesting topic, UFO sightings. Scholars suggest that 
at least some cases of “alien abduction” are connected to hallucinations experienced 
as absolute reality by people during “false awakening”. As a result, at least some peo- 
ple who tell stories of alien abductions are absolutely honest and convinced that they 
experienced these events for real. Some people, in a desperate attempt to prove to 
others that their experiences are real, even damage their bodies (very much like a 
police officer, who fabricates evidence to convict the suspect because the policeman 
is absolutely sure that the suspect IS the culprit). 

The so-called Blackmore-Cox study of the University of the West of England sup- 
ports the suggestion that reports of at least some alien abductions are likely to relate 
to so-called sleep paralysis (very vivid nightmares with a feel of reality ). 24 

24 Susan Blcickmore and Marcus Cox. Alien Abductions, Sleep Paralysis and the Temporal Lobe. 
European Journal of UFO and Abduction Studies, 2000, 1, 113-118. Available on the 
internet: http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/ejufoasOO.html 


112 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


Even if we accepts that Corbett’s experiences could have been a result of his con- 
dition (most probably a closet condition) of claustrophobic fears, and that Corbett’s 
hallucinations were very realistic because of the mechanisms of the “false awakening”, 
we still need to find out if there was any kind of powerful negative experience that 
could trigger such a condition in such exceptionally brave human as Corbett. 

According to medical research, such powerful fears are mostly a result of traumatic 
childhood memories. We do not know many details of Corbett’s childhood, and we 
will never know such details if he ever got stuck in a box, or was locked in a room. 
But we probably do not need such details of Corbett’s early life, as most Corbett fans 
know very well about probably the most traumatic event of Corbett’s early life that 
could have triggered his claustrophobic fears. 

Nainital, a town where Corbett was born and spent most of the summer months, 
suffered a devastating tragedy on Saturday, 18 September, 1880. This was a horrific 
landslide, burying alive 151 Nainital citizens in a muddy grave. Corbett was that time 
five years old, and together with his family, he witnessed this unimaginable tragedy. 

Here is the second half of the poem by poet Hannah Battersby in 1887, written 
after seven years of the Nainital tragedy: 

“For scarcely had they timely refuge found, 

Than a huge limb of the great mountain fell, 

Sweeping the fair hill-side of house and land, 

And burying dozens of their fellow men 
In one uncompromising, living tomb!.. 

Strong men in the proud glory of life’s prime, 

Women in joyful trustfulness of love 
With little children in full bloom of life; 

All in the twinkling of an eye cut down, 

In that rude harvest of the tyrant Death! ... 

Now the late lovely valley, Nainital 
Stands as a witness of the frailty 
Of human strength against the overwhelming might. . 

It is important to know if the Corbett’s could really see the unfolding 
this we would need to know where the Corbett family lived during the 
their arrival in Nainital, the Corbetts rented and lived in a property situated opposite 
the ‘Treasury’ building, in a region called ‘Mallital’. This was exactly the region that was 
swamped by the landslide and would have killed the Corbett family if they had still 
lived there in 1880. Fortunately for them, in 1875, before Jim’s birth in July, the family 
moved to one of their purchased plots in a two-storeyed house below the Alma Hill. 
Alma Hill was the second lowest of the hills around the town, very close to ill-fated 
“Mallital”. This region is on the lakeside is situated next to Mallital, the region swamped 
by the landslide. According to Martin Booth’s words: 


disaster. For 
disaster. On 


THE MYSTERY OF CHAMPAWAT BUNGALOW 


113 


“The landslip was terrifying and catastrophic. From where the Corbetts lived they 
could see quite clearly what was happening and they must have thought they too 
would soon be cannoned into the valley below for their houses were but two to three 
hundred yards or so to the west of the slip.” 

Therefore, the Corbetts had a dubious privilege of having the best possible view of 
the landslide disaster of 1880. So the psychological impact must have been extremely 
strong particularly on five year old Jim. Even more, just a few years before the disaster 
the Corbetts lived in the very region which was wiped out by the landslide, so they 
certainly knew in person most, if not all, the unfortunate members of the Nainital 
society who were swept together inside the “living tomb”. In her famous notes, Maggie 
mentioned one of their former neighbours, their friend, who died in the landslide, 
squashed between the walls in the collapsed house. 

There are the two historic photographs stored at the British Tibrary, showing the 
magnitude of the 1880 landslide of Nainital. The first photograph was taken before 
the landslide, and the second one was taken after the landslide. 

(1) The first photo shows Nainital in 1875, 5 years before the tragedy (and inci- 
dentally the year when Jim Corbett was born). 

(2) The next photo was taken by the same photographer shortly after the devastat- 
ing 1880 landslide. To show the damage, the photographer probably chose the same 
view as in the photo taken by the same person five years before. 

Therefore, the Corbett family members clearly saw the houses disappearing un- 
der the mountain of mud, leading to suffocation and death of more than a hundred 
people. This tragic scene, most likely accompanied by the terrifying screams of family 
members and distant scream of the doomed victims of the landslide, must have been 
a horrendously stressful experience for a five years old Jim. 

The Corbetts were in total shock, as well as the whole of Nainital. After this trag- 
edy the Corbetts sold in panic the house where they watched the landslide from, as 
residents feared more landslides. And they had reasons for fear - the first known 
landslide in Nainital occurred in 1866 in Alma Hill, and then in 1879, the year before 
the tragedy, there was a larger one, again in Alma Hill, exactly the region where the 
Corbetts lived during the catastrophic 1880 landslide. 

Talks about the 1880 landslide and the terrible deaths of their neighbors were 
certainly a topic of conversation for Corbett’s and for the whole town for many years. 
After the 1880 landslide an effective drainage system was constructed, and the tragedy 
has never been repeated for the last 130 years. But Nainital residents lived in fear for 
many years in the wake of the disaster. 

So I suggest that it was mostly because of this traumatic childhood experience 
that Jim Corbett developed a closet claustrophobic fear of suffocation, a condition 
that could manifest itself rarely, only under strong stress, and in closed buildings. 
Most likely Corbett himself was unaware of his condition, and that’s why his love of 


114 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


outdoor sleeping on one hand, and his dislike of the formal tight neck clothing with a 
tie on the other hand, was as a rule attributed to his love of nature and outdoor living. 

With the recognition of this condition that probably troubled Jim Corbett on 
occasions, we can gain a fresh insight into why he preferred sleeping in the tent even 
in his own house in Kaladhungi 25 , why he preferred to stay outdoors even when he 
was on the territory of man-eating tigers and leopards. We can also understand why 
he preferred wearing shorts instead of trousers, and why he disliked formal clothing 
and tie. 

Of course, on rare occasion Corbett had to wear claustrophobic clothing, including 
the much hated tie and suit (very much like some of our fellow humans, who hate 
ties but have to wear it at their jobs, sometimes five days a week). This was a natural 
requirement when James Edward Corbett was meeting members of high British soci- 
ety, and we know that he did meet very high-ranking people, including members of 
the British Royal family. Despite his wearing on rare occasions tight claustrophobic 
clothing, his love of outdoor living and free casual clothing was obvious. 

By the way, Corbett fans might also remember that he did not actually sleep inside 
the Tree Top Hotel rooms either when he accompanied the Royal couple in Kenya 
on 5-6 February 1952. Instead of sleeping inside the hotel, the 76-year-old Corbett 
preferred to spend the night outside, sitting on the staircase, watching over the safety 
of the 26-year-old Elizabeth. As we know, this was the historical night when the young 
princess became the Queen of the British Empire, Elizabeth II. 

Corbett’s traumatic childhood experience and psychological state possibly also 
can explain why Corbett was so dedicated to hunting man-eating tigers and leopards. 
On one hand, this was a psychological remedy for his own condition, as man-eating 
tigers and leopards kill their victims by suffocation, and Corbett was facing his biggest 
subconscious fear by eliminating these powerful animals in direct confrontation. 

On the other hand, as a deeply compassionate person, Corbett wanted to do all in 
his power to end the human suffering and death that was brought to humans by the 
man-eating tigers and leopards: death in the form of suffocation, his biggest personal 
fear instilled from his horrific childhood memory. 

True bravery is not the absence of fear. It is facing your fears and defeating them. 
We know champion mountain climbers who were afraid of heights in their child- 
hood; we know physically sick children who reached Olympic glory; we know young 
stuttering men who were afraid of public speeches but became brilliant orators and 
politicians. Jim Corbett is another classic example of a true hero, a hero who was 
stronger that the most powerful unconscious fears instilled in the deepest corners of 
his psyche by the most traumatic childhood memories 26 . 

25 See, for example: “When at Kaladhungi, he preferred to sleep in his tent rather than his bedroom 
and, in Nainital, he slept in the house but with the windows wide open regardless of the temperature 
outside” (Booth, Carpet Sahib, pg. 158) 

26 Author’s note: I am very grateful to Kristoff Kotecha and Priyvrat Gadhvi for their helpful comments 


115 


The Mysterious Nagpur Man-Eater And Other 
Unknown Man-Eaters 

By PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

One of the most ubiquitously discussed and debated questions amongst the mul- 
titudes of Jim Corbett’s fans, is whether there were man-eaters shot by Corbett that 
remained undocumented, and thus unknown. Were there man-eaters shot by Corbett 
that he did not write about in any of his famous books? Do we know every chapter of 
his career as a slayer of man-eaters? 

In the 6 available books of the 7 written by Corbett, we encounter a documented 
13 man-eaters: 

• The Champawat Tigress 

• The Panar Leopard 

• The Mukhtesar Tigress 

• The Rudraprayag Leopard 

• The Chowgarh Tigers (Mother & cub) 

• The Tallades Tigers (Mother & 2 cubs) 

• The Mohan Tiger 

• The Kanda Tiger 

• The Chuka Tiger 

• The Thak Tigress 

A simple chronological study of Corbetts stories on his man-eater hunts presents a 
curious question: At the start of his literary career, did he have a preference for stories 
he wanted to tell? Or did he pick stories in a random fashion from his memory and pen 
them down? This question bears relation to the possibility of there being man-eater 
hunts that Jim Corbett never wrote about. 

It would appear that although the stories included in “Man-eaters of Kumaon” are 
largely chronological in order of their narration, they were chosen by Corbett quite 
randomly from the treasure-trove of his experiences. Certainly, the man-eater stories 
of “Temple Tiger and more man-eaters of Kumaon” (OUP, 1954) lacked nothing in 
drama & intrigue, and save the case of the Talla Des man-eater, which Corbett pur- 
posely withheld from narrating till his other stories had been read and accepted by 
his audience, he does not assign any particular reason for choosing some stories over 
others in his earlier writings. 

It is a known fact that his self-published “Jungle Stories” (1935) was meant to be 
distributed to a close circle of his friends and that ‘Man-eaters of Kumaon’ (OUP, 1944) 
was an extension and enlargement of ‘Jungle Stories’. Corbett, a modest & self-effacing 
man was certainly not intending to document every single exploit of his in the form of 


and information provided while writing this chapter. 


116 


BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


these books - his only impetus in writing these had been the insistence of his friends. 
It would thus be fair to assume he did not envision a readership for his initial literary 
works nearly as large as they actually achieved. 

Extracts from “My Kumaon - Uncollected writings: Jim Corbett” published in 
2012 by OUP as a mark of celebration of 100 years of publishing in India, further 
strengthen this argument. In an extract from an early undated telegram by Corbett 
entitled ‘How I came to write’, he writes “...On arrival at Government House that 
evening, the pleasure my hostess expressed, when in answer to her question I told her 
I had made a start, so shamed me that I, there and then, resolved to write up some of 
my experiences, even if no one ever took the trouble to read them...” 

In another chapter in the same book, entitled “The Nightjar’s egg”, he writes about 
his book thus: “Reverting to the book, and my relief on realizing that possibly only 
one person would trouble to read it, I turned over the pages in my memory and, 
selecting a few scenes covering a long period of years, started to put a description of 
them down on paper.” 

Possibly, not foreseeing the enormous readership “Man-eaters of Kumaon” would 
gain and expecting limited circulation, Corbett inadvertently exposes his readers to 
some unknown and un-introduced experiences. As a case in point, take the mention 
of the ‘Muktesar Tigress’ he makes in the ‘author’s note’ in ‘Man-eaters of Kumaon - a 
man-eater which does not find mention anywhere else in the book and which came 
to light only 10 years later in “Temple Tiger..” (1954). Another example from the same 
book would be his repeated mention and casual indication of another tiger in the story 
of the Thak Tigress, which, as another chapter of this book demonstrates, is in-fact the 
Chuka man-eater- which again got written about only ten years later! 

Now, to the core question of whether there were other man-eaters that Corbett 
did not write about, we must first address the most obvious and apparent references 
to such ‘mystery man-eaters’. Foremost among such unresolved mysteries would be 
the case of the “Nagpur man-eater”. A reference was made to the Nagpur man-eater 
in the petition sent by villagers of Kanda area to Jim Corbett requesting him to come 
to their rescue by shooting the man-eater. A copy of the petition was reproduced in 
“Man-eaters of Kumaon” and reads as follows: 

COPY OF PETITION SENT TO THE AUTHOR BY THE PEOPLE OF GAR- 
HWAL 

The promise mentioned on page 112, was made after receiving 
this petition 

From The Public of patty Painaun, Bungi and Bickla Badalpur 
District Garhwal 

To Captain J. E. Carbitt, Esq., I.A.R.O., Kaladhungi 
Distt. Nainital 
Respected Sir 


THE MYSTERIOUS NAGPUR MAN-EATER AND OTHER UNKNOWN MAN-EATERS 


117 


We all the public (of the above 3 Patties) most humbly and respectfully beg to lay 
the following few lines for your kind consideration and doing needful. 

That in this vicinity a tiger has turned out man-eater since December last. Up to 
this date he has killed 5 men and wounded 2. So we the public are in a great distress. By 
the fear of this tiger we cannot watch our wheat crop at night so the deers have nearly 
ruined it. We cannot go in the forest for fodder grass nor we can enter our catties in 
the forest to graze so many of our cattle are to die. Under the circumstances we are 
nearly to be ruined. The Forest Officials are doing every possible arrangement to kill 
this tiger but there is no hope of any success. 2 shikari gentlemen also tried to shoot 
it but unfortunately they could not get it. Our kind District Magistrate has notified 
Rs. 150 reward for killing this tiger, so every one is trying to kill it but no success. 
We have heard that your kind self have killed many man-eater tigers and leopards. 
For this you have earned a good name specially in Kumaon revenue Division. The 
famous man-eater leopard of Nagpur has been shoot by you. This is the voice of all 
the public here that this tiger also will be killed only by you. So we the public venture 
to request that you very kindly take trouble to come to this place and shoot this tiger 
(our enemy) and save the public from this calamity. For this act of kindness we the 
public will be highly obliged and will pray for your long life and prosperity. ITope 
you will surely consider on our condition and take trouble to come here for saving 
us from this calamity. The route to this place is as follows Ramnagar to Sultan, Sultan 
to Lahachaur, Lahachaur to Kanda. If your honour kindly inform us the date of your 
arrival at Ramnagar we will send our men and cart to Ramnagar to meet you and 
accompany you. We beg to remain 
Sir 

Your most sincerely 

Dated Jharat Signed Govind Singh Negi 
The 18th February 1933 Headman Village Jharat 
followed by 40 signatures and 4 thumb impressions of 
inhabitants of Painaunf Bungi and Bickla Badalpur Patties. 

Address 

The Govind Singh Negi 
Village Jharat Patty 
Painaun, P.O. 

Badialgaon Dist., Garhwal, U.P. 

The mention of the Nagpur man-eating leopard in this petition convinced ma- 
ny-a-Corbett fan about the existence of a man-eating leopard that operated around 
the Maharashtrian city of Nagpur (central-western India), and that Corbett would 
have at some point before 1933 travelled to Nagpur to rid the place of the man-eater. 


118 


BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


The authenticity of this possible hunt by Jim Corbett was alluded to by at least 2 
of his biographers. 

Martin Booth, author of the Corbett biography “Carpet Sahib” (1986) wrote the 
following in connection with the Nagpur man-eater in his book 

“Quite possibly, Jim shot other man-eaters as well as these which were his re- 
nowned kills. In 1933, local Indians believed that he had shot a man-eating leopard 
at Nagpur and used this act to try and persuade him to rid them of their own local 
enemy” (Booth, 1986:202). 

A later Biography by Jerry Jaleel, entitled “Under the Shadow of Man-eaters: the 
Life & Legend of Jim Corbett”, (1997) had the following lines on the Nagpur man-eater 

"Then there were other man-eaters Corbett did not write about. One 
in particular, the Nagpur man-eater, was mentioned in the petition 
Corbett received from the village headman" (Jaleel, 1997:37) 

Clearly, the Nagpur man-eater had established itself in the minds of many Corbett 
fans as a man-eater left out by Corbett from his stories, and one they certainly wanted 
to know more about! 

Several forums on the internet had questions by readers of Corbett on the identity 
of this animal and quite a few attempts were made to unearth information on this 
man-eater. If the depredations of the creature had given it a degree of fame that made 
it known in distant Kumaon, a thousand mile away from the city of Nagpur, and if 
Jim Corbett had travelled all the way to Nagpur to shoot it, surely, there must be a 
mention somewhere of this event, surely a note of this supposedly famous hunt must 
be lying up buried in some archived government file! 

There emerge however, several inconsistencies with the possible occurrence of this 
Jim Corbett hunt in the Nagpur area and at the same time several aspects point to an 
entirely different possibility! 

The inconsistencies are the following: 

• Jim Corbett is of course, the most reliable source of information on Jim Corbett. 
Corbett mentioned in his writings that he had shot 2 man-eater Leopards. We know 
these are the Panar Leopard & the Rudraprayag Leopard. 

• If the case of the Nagpur Leopard was that of a ‘famous man-eater’ as mentioned in 
the villagers’ petition, then it positively must have found mention, at least in passing 
sense, in some of Corbett’s writings, or writings from other authors of Jungle stories. 
No mention, however, exists. 

• There must have been a note in the Forest department records of such a man-eater 
& it’s elimination by Jim Corbett. No such evidence has been found. 

And yet, we cannot suspect the villagers of being mistaken or indiscreet in their 
SOS to Corbett, so what really is the answer to the mystery of the Nagpur man-eater? 

The answer is very simply this: The mysterious ‘man-eater Leopard of Nagpur’ was 
none other than the man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag. 


THE MYSTERIOUS NAGPUR MAN-EATER AND OTHER UNKNOWN MAN-EATERS 


119 


An important point to keep in mind is that Corbett wrote his stories several years 
after they had occurred & named the man-eaters according to the locality in which 
they operated. However, in some cases - like the Rudraprayag Leopard, the Chowgarh 
Tigers, the Panar Leopard etc the range of the animal’s activities extended over several 
hundred square miles, across which dozens of human settlements & villages existed. 
Thus it is safe to believe that these man-eaters could have had different identities at 
the time of their depredations, and could have been associated with the name of any 
of the several places they operated in. 

For example, had Corbett named the Panar leopard, which got its name from the 
Panar river that flowed through the region it operated in, as the ‘Sanouli man-eater’ 
after the village near which it was shot, any mention of a ‘Panar man-eater’ would 
have resulted in much the same reaction as the Nagpur man-eater. The same holds 
true for several of his man-eaters, as none was probably known just with one specific 
name at the time it was alive. 

Ironically, it was the Rudraprayag leopard that had to some degree uniformity and 
singularity in its identity. Geoffrey Cumberlege, head of the Oxford University Press, 
had pointed to Corbett after reviewing the manuscripts of “The man-eating Leopard of 
Rudraprayag” that the name ‘Rudraprayag’ would be difficult for people outside India 
to pronounce. In a letter sent by Corbett to Cumberlege on June 20, 1947, an extract 
of which was reproduced in “My Kumaon” (OUP, 2012), Corbett address this concern: 

"I agree with you that the title I have chosen is over-long and 
that people outside India will find it difficult to pronounce the 
word 'Rudraprayag' . To avoid this difficulty I thought of calling the 
book "The Man-eater of Garhwal", but finally decided that this would 
not be an appropriate title for a book dealing with an animal that 
had for many years been known throughout India as the Rudraprayag 
man-eater..." 

This uniform identity however, as the Rudraprayag man-eater, was established 
towards the later years of the man-eater’s activities and certainly was reinforced after 
it had been shot, through extensive press coverage and more importantly through 
local tales and folklore. 

Another important contributing factor in making Corbett fans believe in the pos- 
sibility of a Nagpur man-eater was the name of a well-known and prominent Indian 
city - Nagpur. Some cities and places in India are synonymous with much lesser 
known other places. The mention of Udaipur, for example, immediately brings to 
mind the beautiful city in the state of Rajasthan. Yet, places named Udaipur exist 
in no less than 4 different states in India: in the states of Tripura, Haryana, Madhya 
Pradesh & Rajasthan. 

The crucial piece of evidence however, establishing the Nagpur man-eater and 
the Rudraprayag man-eater as one and the same animal, came through D.C. Kala’s 
pioneering work on Jim Corbett in the form of his biography “Jim Corbett of Kuma- 


120 


BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


on” (1979). Kala pointed out that such was the terror of the man-eater in the region, 
that it entered folklore and even was the subject of an annual fair at Rudraprayag for 
many years. There were several ballads sung during the festivities. At least 4 of these, 
according to Kala, were in Circulation in 1972. Kala presents an English rendering of 
one of these songs in his book, an extract of which is presented below: 

Poem of the Panther (a transcreation by Col. S.N . Dhondiyal of Bag Ki Kavita, a 
Garhwali ballad printed in Bir Garhwal (1972), published by Shri Vishalmani Sharma 
Upadhyaya of Narayan Kothi, Garhwal 

"It was terror, not the usual fun and banter 
That forged a fair - this time to catch a panther. 

In Patti Nagpur, year nineteen twenty-five 
Plans were launched, and then a concerted drive. 

To trap the killer once the harvest was done: 

Now rejoice, good folk! Happy times have come." 


"Patwaris gathered there three hundred goats, as bait; 

But we didn't see the panther, despite a long wait. 

Came Captain Saurat to Rudraprayag: he fired his gun 

Near the bridge; the panther now wounded. 

Was made to run"... 

The poem clearly establishes the “Nagpur Patti” as the center stage of the action. 
A ‘Patti’ is a term that signifies a group of villages known by a collective name. 

The Nagpur ‘Patti’ is indeed a well known area near and north of the Alaknanda 
River in Garhwal and this was one of the core-areas of the range of the Rudraprayag 
Leopard. The famous place of ‘Agatsyamuni’ is close to the Nagpur patti. 

A simple search of Nagpur in Garhwal on the internet also presents several link- 
ages to the area. 

Further, the villagers’ petition mention a ‘famous leopard’ and is sent in 1933, 
when memories of the famous hunt of the Rudraprayag leopard would still be fresh 
in the minds of the people of the region. 

This author first presented this explanation on the Jim Corbett page on Facebook, 
which is administered by Jerry Jaleel, earlier introduced and also has several experts on 
Corbett as members along with hundreds of fans. The writing received unchallenged 
and positive reviews that validated its theory which was subsequently published in 
the official “Tiger Trails” Journal and newsletter of the Jim Corbett Foundation, Can- 
ada sent to its members (Vol. 18, Number 69 01/2012) under the title “The Nagpur 
man-eater mystery is solved” and directed readers to the original discussion on the 
Facebook page. 

The finding is obviously a tad disappointing for Corbett fans hoping to unearth 
an unknown story on a man-eater shot in Nagpur, as the hunger to more on the life 
and exploits of Jim Corbett remains as alive and strong today amongst his admirer 
as it ever was. 


THE MYSTERIOUS NAGPUR MAN-EATER AND OTHER UNKNOWN MAN-EATERS 


121 


Other unknown man-eaters? 

The fact that the Nagpur man-eater turned out to be the Rudraprayag Leopard 
is certainly not an indication of there being no other unknown man-eaters shot by 
Corbett which did not get published as stories in his books. 

None of Jim Corbetts authentic biographers - Marjorie Clough (Current Biog- 
raphy, 1946), Malcolm Hailey (Introduction to Tree Tops 1955 and A life well-lived 
-undated), Geoffrey Cumberlege (Introduction to World Classic Series 1960), Roy 
Hawkins (introduction to Jim Corbetts India, 1978), D.C. Kala (Jim Corbett of Ku- 
maon, 1979), Martin Booth (Carpet Sahib-A life of Jim Corbett, 1986), Jerry Jaleel 
(Under the shadow of man-eaters: Life and legend of Jim Corbett, 1997) and Peter 
Byrne (Shikari Sahib, 2002) present an unequivocal and unambiguous account of an 
unknown man-eater hunt not described by Corbett in his books, although, as has 
been stated earlier, some did point to the possibility of there being other man-eaters. 

Jerry Jaleel in his book ‘Under the Shadow of man-eaters: The Life & Legend of 
Jim Corbett’ did present a story of ‘The Chirgudi man-eater’, about a man-eater leop- 
ard supposedly shot by Corbett in 1912. The story does not however, unequivocally 
establish this man-eater as having been killed by Corbett - as it uses a pseudonym, is 
written by a different person than Corbett and is slightly vague in some places. Cor- 
bett himself mentions in his later writings having shot no more than two man-eating 
leopards. Hence the story, as concerning Corbett’s role in it, may or may not be true. 
Jaleel, however, makes an effort at addressing the question of other man-eaters shot 
by Corbett through this story. 

There is an apparent absence of any man-eater hunt by Corbett between the years 
1910 and 1926 - between the Panar Leopard (1910) and the Rudraprayag Leop- 
ard (1926). This would mean 16 years, or 50% of his career of 32 years as a hunter 
of man-eaters saw no action - yet Corbett himself describes his experiences with 
man-eaters as “32 years of hunting man-eaters.” It is quite certain, that the honest 
and modest Jim would certainly have alluded to this long period of recess - had it 
occurred, and would not have claimed a clean “32 years of hunting man-eaters” as 
career experience. 

A very reliable source of information on Jim Corbett, none less than his publishers 
- Oxford University Press, tell us in at least one instance - The introduction of “My 
Kumaon”, 2012 that Jim Corbett shot 19 man-eater Tigers and 14 man-eater Leopards! 
These figures regularly surface in many forum discussions and articles on Corbett, yet 
no source as reliable as his publishers! 

This information however, leaves 8 man-eater Tigers and 12 man-eater Leopards, 
supposedly shot by Corbett, unaccounted for! This is certainly an error committed by 
OUP and could be the result of hearsay. Certainly, the information on 14 man-eat- 
er leopards is definitely wrong as Corbett himself describes having shot only two 
man-eater leopards. 


122 


BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


Another very reliable allusion to the number of man-eaters shot by Jim Corbett 
was found in a letter lying buried at the National Archives of India. The letter, un- 
earthed in late 2012 by this author, was written by none other than Sir William Ibbot- 
son, the only person Corbett ever hunted man-eaters with! Ibbotson wrote this letter 
on January 13th, 1939 to a certain ‘John - a senior official posted at the time with the 
Viceroy’s staff in New Delhi, exploring a possible medal or decoration for Jim Corbett 
for saving hundreds of human lives through his hunts of man-eaters. In the letter, while 
referring to the Thak tigress, which Corbett had just killed, Ibbotson mentions of her 
possibly being his ‘twentieth man-eater’! (The Ibbotson letter is published in another 
chapter of this book). However, Ibbotson’s word “possibly” gives the idea that he was 
not claiming to be precise in his estimate. 

The answer to the question of other man-eaters, thus, continues to evade us - or 
does it? 

The answer is, in fact, offered by Corbett himself, in a subtle and unassuming way, 
through his writings. YES - there were indeed other man-eaters shot by Corbett apart 
from the 13 alluded to. The answer emerges in at least two instances in Corbett’s own 
books, although it requires careful reading and analysis to diagnose it. 

Firstly, in his chapter ‘The Queen of the Village’ in ‘My India’ (OUP, 1952), Corbett 
starts the chapter by narrating the tale of a man-eating Tiger that has terrorised the 
inhabitants of the village - who send urgent summons to Corbett to help them who 
arrives ‘hot-foot from Mokhameh Ghat’ to shoot the Tiger. 

The incident involved another Sportsman from Nainital, who made an attempt to 
shoot the Tiger which ended in a terrible failure and a forest fire! 

Corbett concludes the story of this Tiger by saying “Five people lost their lives 
between the accidental arrival of the sportsman at the machan, and the shooting of 
the Tiger” 

The sportsman in question arrived at the site after 2 victims had already been killed 
by the tiger - a 12 year-old girl and another woman. With the 5 subsequent victims, 
this takes the toll up to 7 human kills. 

The story thus, is unique and bears no resemblance to any other documented 
Corbett hunt. Although the chapter, being dedicated to a different subject than the 
man-eater offers no great details, it could be safe to assume this village is about 20 
miles from either Kaladhungi or Nainital, from where Corbett begins his foot-march. 

It could also be assumed that Corbett did not shoot this Tiger in his first visit; it 
possibly took him repeated attempts to bring him to bag, as 5 people lost their lives 
after Corbett too, made his first attempt to go after the Tiger. The fact that he took 
leave from Mokhameh Ghat to come to the rescue of the villagers also would mean 
he could not be on the man-eater’s trail for several days or weeks - the typical time 
it took Corbett with his great skills to bring man-eaters to bag. It is unlikely Corbett 
could have let 5 human kills take place while he was on the man-eater’s trail and it 


THE MYSTERIOUS NAGPUR MAN-EATER AND OTHER UNKNOWN MAN-EATERS 


123 


is equally unlikely he would have left the panic stricken population to the mercies of 
the man-eater for good! 

It is obvious that this hunt would have taken place between 1907, the year of his 
first hunt and 1919 - the year he left Mokameh Ghat. Further, it is most likely that 
this hunt occurred after the killing of the Panar leopard, which we know was in 1910. 
Corbett writes of his occupation with work and inability to devote too much time to 
the pursuit of man-eaters in the chapter ‘The Panar man-eater” (Temple Tiger and 
more man-eaters of Kumaon, OUP 1954). 

"When I returned to my home in Nainital after killing the Cham- 
pawat Tiger I was asked by the Government to undertake the shooting 
of the Panar leopard. I was working hard for a living at the time and 
several weeks elapsed before I was able to spare the time to under- 
take this task, and then just as I was ready to start for the outly- 
ing area of the Almora district in which the leopard was operating, 
I received an urgent request from Berthoud, the deputy commissioner 
of Nainital, to go to the help of the people of Mukhtesar where a 
man-eating tiger had established a reign of terror. After hunting 
down the tiger, an account of which I have given, I went in pursuit 
of the Panar leopard." 

It is hence difficult to create a space for the Tiger mentioned in the ‘Queen of the 
Village’ chapter in the short span of 3 years in which Corbett eliminated 3 man-eaters 
despite being hard-pressed at work. Further, we know that in the second half of World 
War 1 (1914-1918) he was occupied in war service in France & North Waziristan. Thus, 
the most likely time period for this particular hunt was in the period 1910-1915. This 
fills out some of the long gap of 16 years. Another longish period without any known 
hunt was 1920 to 1925. Corbett travelled to Africa in this period and possibly there 
didn’t occur any man-eater in the Kumaon region during this time. The Rudraprayag 
leopard was certain active in this period, and it emerges from a congratulatory letter 
written by Mukandi Lai, Member of Legislative council, Landsdowne, Garhwal on 9th 
May, 1926 and published in “My Kumaon” (OUP, 2012) that Corbett had been asked 
by Mukandi Lai in 1924 to go after the leopard. An extract of the letter goes as follows: 

"...I know how difficult it was to shoot the most cunning and sly 
beast. Perhaps you will remember that I had a talk with you about 
this beast at Nainital in 1924. I asked you to write to me your will- 
ingness to go to Rudraprayag to shoot him under the conditions you 
thought most suitable for the expedition, and I handed over your 
letter to the Finance member to utilize your services, but unfortu- 
nately, the then deputy commissioner of Garhwal did not accept your 
proposals, and took other means to get the leopard killed." 

Corbett thus certainly appeared ready to undertake expeditions in pursuit of 
man-eaters and in the gap years there could have been man-eaters shot that did not 
get written about. 


124 


BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


The second instance where allusion is made to an undocumented man-eater in 
Corbett’s writings bears great relation to the Villagers’ letter that mentioned the Nag- 
pur man-eater - for it is in this petition that we discover another curious case (see a 
special chapter on this subject). 

It is to be noted that Corbett writes in “Man-eaters of Kumaon” of a ‘District con- 
ference’ where a discussion takes place on man-eaters operating in Nainital, Almora 
and Garhwal regions and during which Corbett committed himself to attempting a 
pursuit of 3 man-eaters active in that period. 

The date of the district conference is February, 1929. The 3 man-eaters discussed 
therein are: 

1. The Chowgarh man-eater; 2. The Mohan man-eater; 3. The Kanda man-eater 

Corbett goes after the Chowgarh man-eater first as it is causing the maximum 
trouble and then sequentially, according to his book, eliminates the Mohan man-eater 
and the Kanda man-eater. 

In reproducing a copy of the villagers’ petition to him requesting his urgent assis- 
tance in getting rid of the Kanda man-eater, Corbett writes “The promise mentioned 
on page 112, was made after receiving this petition” (Man-eaters of Kumaon, OUP 
1944). 

The promise he is referring to is one made by him in the Feb, 1929 conference 
to district officials to get rid of man-eaters operating in areas of their jurisdiction. 
Obviously, it is an error on the part of the author, or his publishers in connecting the 
petition with the promise made in the conference as the date of the petition is Feb- 
ruary 18, 1933. Certainly, a promise cannot be made in 1929 in response to a letter 
received in 1933! 

Furthermore, the petition mentions that the Tiger has emerged in their area since 
‘December last’, meaning December, 1932 - killing 5 men and wounding 2. This then 
is inconsistent with the published story of the Kanda man-eater, which had as its most 
recent victims before Corbett shot it, killed 2 women and a man. The man was possibly 
the son of the brave father Corbett talks of at the end of his chapter- freshly recruited 
in the army who was killed by the tiger. 

This points to a possibility of there being ‘2 Kanda Tigers’ that were shot by Jim 
Corbett. A detailed account of this mystery is made in another chapter of this book. 

A separate chapter is also dedicated to a so-called Ladhya man-eater, allegedly 
killed by Corbett in 1946, and mentioned by D.C. Kala and Martin Booth. 

Flence, in conclusion - it is logical to believe Jim Corbett experienced hunts be- 
yond the knowledge of his admirers around the world, and that unfortunately - unless 
his publishers or another reliable source are able to offer us a rare and unexpectedly 
detailed description of such unknown hunts, the Corbett universe will have to remain 
content with the stories the great man told in his lifetime, and there certainly wouldn’t 
be a Nagpur man-eater to add twist to the tales! 


125 


From the National Archives of India: 
Ibbotson’s Unknown letter (January 13th, 1939) 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

One of the authors of this book (Priyvrat Gadhvi), while working at the National 
Archives of India, found an hitherto an uknown letter, hand-written by Ibbotson on 
January 13th, 1939. 

Here is the full text of the letter: 

Subject 

MAJOR JIM CORBETT 

Question of granting an award to in acknowledgement of his having saved many 
lives as a result of his shooting several man-eating tigers in the U.P. forests 

Camp Via haldwani 

13/1/39 

Dear John, 

Jim Corbett has taken a frightful toss, [he] got up a tree 30 ft to photograph a 
tiger, caught hold of a dead branch and fell. He hit a branch of the tree when nearly 
down and that probably saved his life, but he is bruised externally and internally all 
over the back, spine & heart and has been in frightful pain for a couple of days. But 
he was distinctly better though still in a very bad way last night and we hope he will 
now recover quickly, fall Jan 10. 

Poor old Mary Doyle his half sister has been gradually losing her reason for the 
last month or so, and is now in a condition which can only be dealt with by Ranchi, 
they have practically made up their mind, with great difficulty as you may imagine, 
to send her there. I am perfectly convinced it is the only thing to do. 

So there is great trouble at Kaladhungi and I am sure the viceroy as well as yourself, 
& his family, would wish to know. 

I had been intending already to write to you about Jim and ask your advice, 

You perhaps heard that he killed a maneating tiger, along with me, at Chuka where 
the Ladhiya joins the Sharda last April. 

Human killing happened again in august & September but we thought it might 
be due to bear, or the chances of the jungle, and I took Jim along there in October 
intending to try clear the matter up together and if necessary leave him behind while 
I went on to Askot to do a job there. 

There was a human kill the night after we got to Chuka, which put it beyond doubt 
that the tigress had carved on the habits of the old tiger. 


126 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA, PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


We stayed ten days, and had a hairy and interesting time but didn’t get the tigress 
and then I had to go on, & he to return to see his sisters down to Kaladhungi 
On Nov 12 the tigress pulled another man out of a tree & killed & ate him 
Jim was . . . (illegible) to, set off at once and the enclosed will tell you how he 
killed the tigress. 

This must be about the twentieth of these really dangerous man-eaters that he has 
killed, and the advice I want from you is how to acknowledge & reward it. 

It is a magnificent show & you have to know the jungle there to appreciate how 
magnificent it is. 

He received many years ago the freedom of the forests, when he had killed the 
Rudraprayag leopard, about 1926-7. 

There is the Albert medal at home for life saving, but he has saved hundreds, 

probably many hundreds. 

What do you think can best be done, and can you tell me what His Excellency 
would support or grant when it comes “through proper channels.” 

Clearly we must put something through, - I am going in April. 

The best from us both, the boys & we flourish 

Yours ever, 

Ibby 


There is a typed reply from John, who says the Viceroy suggested presenting Jim a 
memento signed by all his friends including the viceroy for his work. They also seem 
disinclined to award Jim the Albert medal saying something like that it has specific 
criteria for awarding it. 

The letter also says that their excellences, family and all staff have read Jim’s letter 
with great interest, ‘many thanks for it’ ...’I enclose if 

This letter is important for several reasons: 

It discusses several important moments: 

1. The letter mostly discusses the hunt for Thak tigress. This hunt was finished on No- 
vember 30, 1938, 44 days before writing this letter by Ibbotson on January 13 th 1939); 

2. The letter mentions the fall that Corbett suffered while he was filming tigers in his 
“studio” in Kaladhungi, and gives the precise date of the fall: January 10, 1939. As a 
matter of fact, the letter was written by Ibbotson to support Corbett’s family in diffi- 
cult times after Jim’s injury. In his book Booth expressed suspicion that such an event 
ever happened when Maggie told Ruby Beyts about the accident (Booth, 1986:175). 
Maggie did not remember the date of the accident, and it is pity that Booth did not 
know about the existence of this letter at the New Delhi archive; 

3. The letter verifies the correct date of killing the Chuka man-eater, April, 1938, and 
verifies the date of killing of the fourth (the last) victim of the Thak man-eater, given 
in Corbett story - November 12 th 1938. It was the agonizing cry of this victim that 
Corbett heard on November 28 th from the deserted Thak village (see the special 
chapter discussing this event). 


FROM THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF INDIA:IBBOTSON’S UNKNOWN LETTER (JANUARY I3TH, 1939) 


127 


4. The letter also verifies another detail of Corbett story, describing that on the next 
morning after their arrival to Chuka village in October, the man from Thak was 
killed; 

5. The letter mentions the initial thought that Corbett had about the reasons of Thak 
tigress becoming the man-eater - that she followed the habit of her mate, the Chuka 
man-eater. As Corbett found out at the end, his initial idea was wrong, as the tigress 
was herself shot twice, and one of the wounds went septic, pushing her to man-eat- 
ing. In addition, at this period she was raising cubs. Most likely Ibbotson did not 
know the real reason behind the tigress becoming a man-eater while writing this 
letter on January 13 th 1939. 

6. The letter (and the response) both mentions another letter that was enclosed in this 
letter, written by Corbett himself, with the description of his hunt of the Thak tigress. 
This letter might still be in the archive; 

7. Interestingly, Ibbotson gives a different date for the Thak tigress first kill, as “August.” 
According to Corbett this was September. Although we must take into account that 
Corbett mentions that in September the “report was received” and Ibbotson men- 
tions that the kill was made in August, which does not necessarily contradict each 
other. On our 2014 trip to Kot Kindri, we were also told by Kot-Kindri villagers that 
the twelve year old girl, Beena, who was collecting mango windfall, was killed by 
a tiger in the view of villagers in late August (see the special section about the first 
victim of the Thak man-eater). 

This letter also might suggest for more: 

8. That Corbett decided to put an end to his career as man-eater hunt also because 
he could no longer afford to leave his sister Maggie alone during his long trips (he 
states the hunt of the Chowgarh tigers and the Rudraprayag leopard as instances of 
long absences from home in the Thak man-eater chapter) since they had decided to 
put Mary Doyle in an asylum for mental ailment, as mentioned in the letter. Booth 
also mentions about this decision in his book. 

9. That the ‘John’ that Ibbostson is writing about is almost certainly (Later ‘Lord Wave- 
11’) John Hope, the son of the penultimate viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow (Viceroy 
from 1936 to 1943) who was friends with the sons of Ibby. 

As we can see, Ibbotson’s letter is a treasure trove for Corbett universe, providing 
many details on various Corbett related topics. 

This letter reminds us one more times that in the state archives and various pri- 
vate archives new exciting documents concerning Jim Corbett life and hunts might 
be awaiting for the Corbett life researchers. 

We are sure Corbett researchers and fans will be happy to read this letter. 

Another letter was found at the National Archives of India, handwritten by the 
man himself - Jim Corbett, to a Colonel Currie in the Viceroy’s staff in Delhi from 
Bundi in Bhopal state on the 19th of February, 1945 with a request to see the viceroy 
on his transit via Delhi. The meeting request is accepted and arrangements for receiv- 
ing and housing him are conveyed via a reply to Jim 4 days later. Corbett’s cursive 
handwriting was extremely neat, yet tiny. 


128 


Mystery of “War Fever” that gave India 
Rudraprayag Man-Eater 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

In the introduction of his book “Man-eaters of Kumaon,” dedicated to the reasons 
why the tigers and leopards becoming man-eater, Corbett mentions a severe infectious 
disease that killed many people in India in 1918. According to his words this was a 
“mysterious disease which swept through India in 1918 and was called 'war fever’.” 
The most infamous man-eating leopard in the history of India, and possibly the world, 
the Rudraprayag man-eating leopard, who claimed 125 human victims and terrorised 
densely populated huge territory for long eight years, according to Corbett, started 
hunting humans for food as a result of the “war fever.” It was because of the “War fever” 
that plenty of human corpses were left unburied, providing easy meals for scavenging 
leopards. As soon as the epidemic disease was over and the leopard could not find 
any more free corpses, leopard starting hunting humans for food. 

Let us try to find out what kind of disease could the mysterious “war fever” be. 
Was it a specific infectious disease of India, or a part of a wider problem? 

Most probably, the term “war fever” in Corbett writing refers to the biggest known 
to human history pandemic that swept through the world in 1918. The pandemic is 
generally known as “Spanish Flu.” 

Spanish Flu hit the world in January 1918, and the last signs of the pandemic were 
seen in December 1920. The deadly phase of the pandemic took place in second half 
of the 1918. It was this time that most of the people died. Up today the Spanish flu re- 
mains the biggest known in human history pandemic. The Spanish Flu affected about 
500 million people, and from 50 to 100 million people died. These numbers sound big 
even today, when the world population is over 7 billion, but in 1918-1920, when the 
world population was under 2 billions, the range of devastation was much bigger. 27% 
of world population was affected, and 3-6% of the world population died as a result 
of the Spanish Flu. John Barry, a scholar who studied the Spanish Flu 27 , noted, that 
it killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years, and killed more 
people in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. 17 millions were killed in 
India alone. The situation that Corbett describes, when corpses were left unburied be- 
cause of their sheer numbers, was not unique to India, as in some other communities 
(for example, in some Pacific Island communities) the devastation was even bigger. 

Against usual medical expectations, the deadly influenza was particularly severe 
on young adults, killing them in masse and leaving weaker population of elders and 

27 Barry, John. 2004. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. 

London: Penguin Books. 


MYSTERY OF “WAR FEVER” THAT GAVE INDIA RUDRAPRAYAG MAN-EATER 


129 


children alive. Scholars believe that this was a result of a severe form of so called 
“cytokine storm,” a medical term for a strong reaction of a body immune system on a 
disease. The stronger the immune system, the deadlier is the “storm” of the immune 
system reaction, leading to the fatal end. Therefore, strong immune system is most 
likely to be blamed for many millions of the deaths in 1918 influenza pandemic. 

The sudden end of the deadly second phase of the Spanish Flu in late 1918 also 
sparked debates of the reason of the sudden disappearance of the deadly virus. Some 
scholars believe, that the virus itself mutated into a less deadly form, as the killing spree 
of the deadly virus was decreasing the number of host human bodies (Barry, 2004). 

The name of the pandemic “Spanish Flu” is deceptive, as Spain was not the coun- 
try where the disease started, or the one that was affected the most. There are several 
countries considered as a possible place of the initial appearance of the Spanish flu, 
but Kansas in the USA seems to be the prime candidate. The flu soon spread from the 
USA to France and then to other countries of the Europe and the world. The World 
War I (1914-1918) that was still going on assisted greatly in quick spreading of the 
disease on different continents. The widely used name “Spanish Flu” was the result of 
the fact, that the pandemic received the greatest publicity in Spain but not in other 
countries. What was the reason of such a strange behaviour of American and French 
news agencies, which did not report the pandemic? To answer this question we must 
remember that USA and France were participating in the World War I and had the 
usual for the wartime censorship on negative internal news. Spain, unlike USA and 
France, did not participate in the war, and did not have such censorship bans on 
negative internal news. 

The symptoms of the Spanish Flu (most importantly, severe fever), and the time 
of the pandemic (1918) confirms that the “mysterious disease which swept through 
India in 1918 and was called ‘war fever’” was in fact Spanish Flu, the deadliest pan- 
demic in recorded human history. Flere we should also mention, that at least one of 
the authors, D.C.Kala, was sure that the “war fever” mentioned in Corbett writings, 
was the notorious pandemic Spanish Flu. 

It is symbolic, that the appearance of the most infamous man eating leopard in 
human history was connected to the deadliest killer disease ever to hit humanity, 
Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. The leopard was killed in 1926, after eight long years 
of killing spree. 


130 


Did Corbett kill a Ladhya man-eater in 1946? 

By JOSEPH JORDANIA & PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

The Thak man-eater is widely acknowledged as being the last man-eater killed by 
Corbett on 30th November 1938. Fairness to say, there are several published sources 
who mention that Corbett killed at least one more man-eater after killing the Thak 
man-eater. In most of the sources this man-eater is known as Ladhya Valley man-eater 
(or Ladhya man-eater). 

D.C. Kala, the author of the first (and one of the best) biographies of Jim Corbett, 
mentions the Ladhya man-eater on couple of occasions in his 1979 book “Jim Corbett 
of Kumaon”: 

"Corbett shot his first man-eater in 1907, when he was thirty one. 
The last, the marauder of Ladhya River, was shot in 1946. Corbett was 
then over seventy." (D.C. Kala, Jim Corbett of Kumaon, 2009 Penguin 
Books edition, pg. 86) 

... " [After killing the Thak man-eater] he [Corbett] returned 

later to the same valley to kill his last man-eater" (ibid, pg. 87) 

Martin Booth, most likely following in his book “Carpet Sahib” (1986) the lead 
from D.C. Kala (1979), also mentioned Ladhya man-eater on several occasions, some- 
times with details: 

"Certainly, after the Second World War, aged 71, he [Corbett] shot 
his last man-eater in the Ladhya Valley. This was an easy kill, but 
for a man of his age some feat" (Booth, Carpet Sahib, 2010 edition, 
pg. 202); 

"Now into retirement - for he had withdrawn almost entirely from 
business holdings in Nainitall by the end of 1941 - Jim was called 
upon, for the last time, to shoot a man-eater. It was taking human 
life in the Ladhya Valley, not far from Thak where Jim had success- 
fully called to task the Thak man-Eater in 1938. Maggie was most 
anxious that he should not go but Jim felt obliged to do so. He went 
and killed the animal, which was in a sorry state and required lit- 
tle of his earlier experience to stalk and track; or so he claimed" 
(pg . 231 ) . 

"...It is interesting to remember that, whilst writing the book 
[on Rudraprayag leopard] Jim had to break off to deal with the piti- 
ful specimen of a man-eater in the Ladhya Valley" (pg. 234) . 

Apart from the information provided in the books of D.C. Kala, Martin Booth 
and OUP’s My Kumaon (see below), during our visit to Kumaon in 2012, we saw the 
mention of Ladhya man-eater at least in two other places in India: 


DID CORBETT KILL A LADHYA MAN-EATER IN 1946 


131 


1. Ladhya man-eater was among other kills on the poster of the KMVN of Cham- 
pawat. The poster was created by “The Champawat Tourist Office” (KMVN means 
Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, lit.: “Kumaon Regional Development Corporation”) 

2. Another mention of the Ladhya man-eater we saw at the Dabhidura Forest 
Flouse, on the poster of The State of Uttarakhand Forest Office. 

Other Corbett biographers do not mention Ladhya man-eater in their books. 

As we can see, at least D.C. Kala and Martin Booth had no doubts that Corbett 
did kill the last man-eater in 1946, when he was 71 years old. This chapter has been 
written to discuss the possibility whether Corbett actually went to Ladhya Valley in 
1946 in order to kill his last man-eater. 

Reminder for the readers: Ladhya Valley is the valley in Eastern Kumaon, at the 
very border of Nepal. The valley runs between the villages Chuka, Thak, Kot-Kindri 
and Sem, where Corbett killed two of his last man-eaters: Chuka and Thak man-eaters, 
both in 1938 (see the special chapters dedicated to these hunts). 

After examining the existing information on the matter, the authors of this chap- 
ter came to the conclusion, that the so called Ladhya man-eater, allegedly killed by 
Corbett in 1946, is the same man-eating tiger that was killed by Corbett in April 1938, 
and known to all Corbett fans as Chuka man-eater. 

Here are the main arguments for this point of view: 

1 . Corbett has never mentioned in any of his writings or letters that he had killed 
another man-eater after he killed the Thak tigress in November 1938. The rumour 
about the additional man-eater only started circulating long after Jim’s death, after 
D.C. Kala biography on Corbett was published in 1979; 

2. Maggie also has never mentioned about the existence of another man-eater, killed 
in 1946 either. With her pride for her brother, it is hard to believe that she would 
not have mentioned that Jim killed another man-eater when he was already over 
70 years old; 

3. Very importantly, we know that in 1946 Corbett’s health was in a very bad state; he 
almost died during 1944 and 1945 long illness, and it was his sister who nursed him 
“back from the heavens,” as Corbett mentioned (see D.C. Kala, pg 130, 111). Corbett 
never fully recovered after this illness. These are his own words from his letter to 
Philip Vaudrin, OUP, New York, written on 16 th October, 1947: “Yes, I am trying to 
get out to Kenya. I served in low-lying jungles both here and in Burma during the 
war and collected every known type of malaria and tick typhus. Three times I have 
- much to the surprise of doctors and nurses - walked out of hospitals, but I have 
been told very definitely that if there is ever a fourth time, I will be carried out feet 
first. So I am going to Kenya to try and regain my health...” 

4. Even when Corbett went to kill the cattle-lifter tiger in Kaladhungi (in 1946), near 
his winter house, Maggie did not want him to go after the tiger, as his hands were 
trembling and she did not believe he could hold and take a good aim with a rifle 
(see D.C. Kala, pg 100). It is extremely hard to believe that during the same year 
Corbett went to Chuka and Thak village to hunt a man-eater; 


132 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA & PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


5. Even if Corbett would want to go and kill a man-eating tiger in 1946, being in a very 
fragile state after his illness, there is no chance that Maggie would have allowed him 
to do that in the state he was; 

6. As the reader might remember, in 1938, at the age of 63, Jim gave his word to 
Maggie that Thak tigress would be his last man-eater, and we know that Jim was 
a man of his word. There is a good reason to believe that he would not have even 
asked Maggie to let him go after another man-eater, even if there was one and he 
was asked to go after it; 

7. Those, who believe in the existence of Ladhya man-eater in 1946, explain Corbetts 
silence about this man-eater by suggestion that it was a “very easy kill,” not worthy 
of mention in one of his books (see Martin Booth words above). This explanation 
raises some question: firstly, even killing a frail man-eating tiger for 71 year old 
hunter is a great achievement (Booth is right on that account), and secondly, if this 
was such an easy kill, why there was a need to involve Corbett in the first place? 
Jim was not the only hunter in North India, and he was usually asked to help when 
other hunters failed to kill the man-eater; 

8. Very importantly, neither D.C. Kala, nor Martin Booth do not give any references 
to any sources where the information about killing the man-eater in 1946 came 
from. Promising words from Booth “as he [Corbett] claimed” is not supported by 
any evidence; 

9. Another interesting source, related to the topic of our discussion, is the mounted 
head of the Chuka man-eater, with his broken right upper canine. Interestingly for 
the subject of our discussion, the writing on the mounted head clearly mentions 
connection between Chuka man-eater and Ladhya Valley: “Chuka man-eater shot 
by Jim Corbett in Ladhya Valley, India, 1937.” 

10. Authors of this book visited all the villages of Ladhya River Valley (Chuka, Thak, 
Sem and Kit-Kindri), individually and together, several times - in 2007, 2011, 2012, 
and 2014. They talked to the villagers on many occasions, and asked them what 
villagers remembered about Jim Corbett. The presence of any additional man-eat- 
er, apart from Chuka and Thak man-eaters, has never been mentioned. This fact 
becomes more striking if we remember that Ladhya Valley man-eater (in case if 
it really existed) would have been the most recent one - eight years after the Thak 
tigress) and better remembered; 

11. And last, but probably the most potent point: Corbett himself starts the story of 
Chuka man-eater with the words that directly proves that Chuka man- eater and 
the Ladhya man-eater are the same tiger. Read the first words of the story: “CHU- 
KA - which gave its name to the man-eating tiger of the Ladhya valley - is a small 
village of some ten ploughs on the right bank of the Sharda River near its junction 
with the Ladhya.” 

And at the very end of this chapter we would like to discuss the old newspaper 
source that we believe gave rise to the speculations that 71 years old Corbett went to 
the Ladhya valley to kill a man-eating tiger in 1946. We did not discuss this source 
earlier as it does not mention Ladhya Valley man-eater, but the date of publication 


DID CORBETT KILL A LADHYA MAN-EATER IN 1946 


133 


(1946) and the mention of the “another man-eater” most likely became the source of 
later speculations about the Ladhya man-eater. 

The article was published in a newspaper in the NY Daily Times (USA), as a pub- 
licity material for the book Man-eaters of Kumaon which was published in the USA in 
1946 and was a great success. Here is the excerpt from this text (the article appeared 
in June 1 1th issue of NY Daily Times): “But now it seems that the 74 years-old stalker 
of wild beasts has gone out after another man-eater. Every admirer of Jim Corbett 
will wish him well, and pray for a safe return to the writing of his second book, The 
Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag.” 

The tiger that is mentioned in this article, is most likely the cattle lifter from Ka- 
ladhungi. We have already mentioned Corbett killing this tiger earlier in this chapter. 
This happened in 1946. Corbett generally did not like killing cattle-lifter tigers. He 
preferred to compensate for the killed animal to the villagers, but in this case he de- 
cided to kill the tiger. Apart from the requests from the Kaladhungi villagers, Jim was 
afraid for Maggie’s safety, who had a habit of walking around Kaladhungi. Let us also 
remember, that cattle-lifting for a tiger is the dangerous path that might lead to the 
confrontation with humans and killing them as well. As we remember, Maggie was 
against his brother going after the cattle-killer, as in 1946 Jim was after a life-threat- 
ening illness and was still very weak. 

There is a big difference between killing a cattle-lifter in the vicinity of his home 
place (Kaladhungi), and killing a man-eater in Ladhya Valley, hundreds of kilometres 
from his home, reaching of which needed a long hours of tracking in the mountainous 
terrain. 

The mentioned article from the NY Times is important as it was clearly written 
before Jim killed the cattle-lifter. Unfortunately, the article contained not very precise 
information (for example, the article announces that Corbett was at that moment 74 
years old, whereas in the moment of writing of the article he was turning 71). Present- 
ing a cattle-lifter into a “man-eater” was most likely another mistake that gave rise to 
the legend of Jim Corbett killing the man-eating tiger when he was over 70. 

So after the detailed analyses of all the available sources on the subject it seems 
logical to conclude that the Chuka and the Ladhya valley man-eaters are in fact the 
same tiger, killed by Jim Corbett in April 1938. In 1946 Corbett killed in Kaladhungi 
his last tiger, a cattle lifter, which was most likely mistaken by two of the Corbett bi- 
ographers as another man-eater. Jim Corbett’s long and illustrious career of the slayer 
of man-eating tigers ended when he called up and shot the Thak man-eater on the 
dying second of daylight on 30 th November, 1938. 


134 


Search for Corbett Cartridges 


By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

This chapter is dedicated to any those of you readers who may one day decide 
to follow our footsteps in trying to find spent cartridges fired by Jim Corbett on the 
30th of November 1938 early night at Thak Village. Since our group formed by Dr 
Joseph Jordania, Manfred Waltl, Priyvrat Gadhvi, Fernando Oliveira (on phone from 
Brazil) and Kristoff Kotecha together with some hardworking Chuka villagers and 
our guides especially Mr Kamal Bisth and Bhim Singh (also of Chuka), have failed 
due to time constraint and more specifically lack of logistics, we therefore expect one 
to be more equipped and have more time flexibility to try to locate those old spent 
cartridges. The sooner the better, since the latter, if they are still there and in rather 
dying conditions are more liable not to stand too much the test of time and weather. 
Elere are your chances exposed in this paper along with a little part also dedicated to 
two of Corbett’s rifles. 

How many cartridges were there? 

“When I had freed myself from the tangle of human and goat legs I took the .275 
rifle from the man who was holding it, rammed a clip of cartridges into the magazine 
and sent a stream of five bullets singing over the valley and across the Sarda into Ne- 
pal. Two shots, to the thousands of men in the valley and in the surrounding villages 
who were anxiously listening for the sound of my rifle, might mean anything, but two 
shots followed by five more, spaced at regular intervals of five seconds, could only 
be interpreted as conveying one message and that was that the man-eater was dead.” 

Such is the conclusion to the hunt of the man-eating tigress of Thak as described 
by Jim Corbett in MEOK, seven shots fired, two from the Double Barreled 450/400 
(these two shots killed the tigress) and five from the .275 Rigby-Mauser bolt action 
rifle. The spot from where these shots are fired are behind the rock which we describe 
in the killing place of the Thak man-eater. 

If a doubt persists about the shots fired from the 450/400 rifle whose spent car- 
tridges could have been removed at a later time and distant place by Corbett (though 
we have reasons to doubt that as you’ll discover), one thing is for sure as for the shots 
fired from the .275 bolt action rifle in that the shots were fired from where the men 
and the goats were, that is immediately behind the rock. To fire successively from 
such a rifle mean that you have to eject the spent cartridge each time you intent to 
fire a next one, until the cartridge clip magazine which can contain a maximum of 
five cartridges is empty. 


SEARCH FOR CORBETT CARTRIDGES 


135 


The fifth cartridge normally would remain in the firing chamber and may have 
not been ejected at all. Therefore on the night of the 30th November 1938, there were 
at least four empty cartridges of the .275 caliber lying on the ground behind the rock 
at Thak. Since it was night we wouldn’t bet our houses that Corbett lit up torches and 
went looking after those spent ejected cartridges, how ecologically conscious as he 
might have been. We would like also to remind the reader that in the moment when 
Corbett shot the tigress, he was knocked out from his precarious seat on the rock ledge, 
and if not his four men, he could have broken his neck falling down. Corbett had his 
jaw injured and badly swollen from the recoil of the second shot of the 450/400 rifle. 

So there is a good chance that Corbett, a bit shocked from his fall, and happy for 
the sudden positive end of his last hunt did not think to retrieve the cartridges in the 
dark. There is more possibility that the empty cartridges were collected by villagers 
or their children as they were passing through the same path during the December 
1938, than Corbett to collect them in a total dark, after the shock of injured jaw and 
falling down from the rock. 

What about the 450-400 cartridges? 

To answer this question, let us first look at what these cartridges were and how 
many of them could possibly be lying there. To do so, we must be familiar with the 
rifle, the 450-400 rifle, as explained in the Corbett’s Rifle chapter in this book. The 
spent cartridges which were 3inch rimmed at .450 are ejected by levering the butt 
which hinges from the breechblock, that is manually after firing. Jim Corbett has kept 
this rifle in perfect condition throughout his lifetime, and tagged “faithful old friend” 
by him throughout his hunting career. 

We shall stop for one second to refute rumours by people of Naini Tal appearing 
in the 1960’s documentary “Perspective Jim Corbett” who mention that this rifle and 
others have been buried by Jim Corbett in the Gurney House courtyard before depart- 
ing to Africa and would have been retrieved by him when he intended to return. The 
truth is that many people appearing in the documentary did certainly not know that 
Corbett died in 1955 in Kenya and his guns had been auctioned by the executors of 
his Will in February 1956 at the Standard Bank of South Africa, Nyeri Branch, Kenya 
and acquirers from over the globe had been attending this auction sale. 

Since the cartridges of the 450/400 DBNE have to be removed manually one would 
say that there is no chance that any of them would still be lying there in Thak. But Jim 
Corbett was extremely dedicated to his rifle. We do not know that if his three stints in 
the Army had made him into loving his rifle, the first two of them caused him being 
involved at the heart of the conflict. It will take an in-depth psychologist to analyse 
that fact with other people who have been known to sleep with their rifle, sing to them 
or give a name to them. But the fact is that and the longer a cartridge remains in the 
firing chamber, there is more chance that the spent cartridge’s rim gets stuck to the 


136 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


cylindrical wall of the chamber because of the combined effect of heat and chemicals 
produced on firing. 

Corbett kept this gun in very good condition during his ownership. George Neary 
who acquired this rifle from his friend in Vancouver, Canada, wrote that the rifle . . 
is in very good condition, almost kept as new by the former owner (Corbett), except 
for a few scratchings on the butt and outside the barrels.” The firing chamber and the 
barrels condition, he wrote, “. . . apart from cordite leaks in the grooves, seems to have 
just come out from the gunsmith workshop with no primer-powder leaking marks on 
the walls of the chamber. . followed by “Apart from few scratchings on the butt and 
outside the barrels, the stock is immaculate.” 

This was among the notes he gave along with the rifle to Late Elmer Keith in 1963 
when the latter acquired the rifle. Therefore it is most probable that Corbett had re- 
moved the spent cartridges of the 450/400 and cleaned its chamber during the minutes 
or at latest an hour after firing all throughout its career. Could he have removed them 
while smoking or just after, behind the rock and thrown them away on the ground 
that night? Take your chance. This could be the only explanation as to why this gun 
had a perfectly clean firing chamber when auctioned in 1956. 

The appearance of the “few scratches” on the butt and outside of the barrels is also 
interesting for our discussion. Corbett was so dedicated to his rifle that it is impossible 
to consider these scratching were a result of his negligence. So how could they appear? 
Of course we do not know all the different situations where Corbett and his rifle had 
been during their long and successful career as a hunter and a soldier, but we know 
at least one such moment when the rifle could have received the serious scratches. We 
suggest these scratches appeared on the rifle during the hunt of the Thak man-eater. 
We know that after shooting the tigress, Corbett fell head over heals, and as he wrote 
“Once again I take my hat off to these four men for, not knowing but what the tigress 
was going to land on them next, they caught me as I fell and saved me from injury 
and my rifle from being broken.” So we suggest these scratches are the witnesses of 
the last hunt of Jim Corbett for the man eating tiger. 

Primer-powder marks are very difficult to remove after because they are the result 
of a chemical reaction caused by the by-product gases emitted during firing with the 
steel of the chamber rather than a mere stain. These gases upon condensation on the 
colder firing chamber, can cause permanent stains to the latter. Jim Corbett would 
have known that and for this reason along with the perfect condition of the firing 
chamber, we would go for Jim Corbett removing his cartridges and cleaning the rifle 
very soon following the shots. The only question remaining is whether the removal 
of the cartridges was done on the site of the rock or on the way to or at the camp, 
more probably at the site where himself and the rifle fell “head over heels over the 
men and goat”, that is behind the rock or if it is the case, did he threw them on the 


SEARCH FOR CORBETT CARTRIDGES 


137 


ground. At least we know from Corbett writing that when descending to the Chuka, 
he was unarmed. 

Do metal casing of spent cartridges survive weather and time? 

Cartridge casing were normally made of nickel or brass or alloys of them con- 
taining zinc during the early rifle days. Post 1900’s some cartridge casings were also 
made with bronze. Usually a brass casing of the cartridge withstands between 10 to 
50 years of normal wearing depending on the conditions of temperature and humidity 
but some cartridges have been known to have ‘survived’ more than 70-80 years, the 
only explanation would be that one of the two requirements of normal wearing had 
been restrained or suppressed (either air or water). 

For example, during World War 1 at the French-German border and during World 
War 2 especially the French- Belgian border (the Ardennes) have witnessed intense 
battles and cartridges were still being found there some 10 years back. A very fine 
textured soil mostly granitic type and snowy winters, could explain that air and to a 
lesser extent water was restricted to allow a slower decomposition. Why we also back 
the chance of discovering a cartridge in Thak is that this region is known as the TA- 
RAI (or TERAI) belt, and its name suggest that the soil type is of the fine alluvial type 
very close to the granitic structure, with under-layers being both impermeable to air 
and water (on the contrary of the coarse soil structure of the Bhabar.) Therefore more 
likely a type of soil to preserve metallic objects a longer time necessary for their loss 
by rusting. So your chance might still be there but not for too long. 

The Better Chance - The .275 spent cartridges 

The .275 Rigby-Mauser uses the M98 action (Mauser 1898 action), in reference to 
the bolt action patented by Paul Von Mauser in 1898 and used by many English rifle 
manufacturers such as Westley Richards, John Rigby, W. Jeffery, Flolland & Holland, 
Lee Enfield etc... After each shot fired, the bolting handle have to be lifted and slid 
backwards to (1) eject the spent cartridge; and pushed forward and down to (2) ram a 
fresh one from the cartridge clip in the firing chamber. Both Corbett rifles had right- 
hand bolts, and the cartridge gets expelled by this action to the right of the marksman. 

The cartridge model is a 7x57mm rimless which is nowadays basically the same 
casing compared to the brass casings of the 1800’s. Bronze stands better the test of 
time than brass, and it would really take a gamble if Corbett used bronze casing car- 
tridges instead of the brass ones, which we think he didn’t. Therefore there must have 
been at least 4 spent cartridges there at the bottom of the rock, assuming the fifth 
has remained in the firing chamber, at least when they were still celebrating but we 
wouldn’t be surprised at all if any of you find five there. Corbett sure of keeping his 
rifle in prime condition would have pulled the bolting pin backwards for a fifth time. 


138 


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The spent cartridge as ejected takes a random path each time and may at most 
land some 4 feet to your right. Nearly seventy five monsoons rains have washed the 
soils around and deposited all kinds of matter on and around the spot. So basically you 
have a sixteen to twenty feet square of ground to move up to a depth of, let us allow 
for some more, six feet. At most a hundred and twenty cubic feet of earth to be dug 
and removed, about 2.5 to 3.5 tons supposedly. You’ll argue with us that you’ll need 
an excavator for that, but we reassure you that two men digging without a hoe only 
a spade alternatively but consecutively for two hours removed some two and a half 
feet of ground over some sixteen square metres. So if you’re quite quick to respond to 
this possibility of finding any cartridge, you’ll experience perhaps only two monsoons 
worth of mud and deposits having filled the space we had already started to dig for 
you. Bring a pointer-device metal detector with you, one with a short range will suffice. 

If you ever find something... 

Authentication is easy according to John Rigby and Co, because the cartridges 
rims used in the early 20th Century are coined with any of the “7x57 PN” or “7x57RN” 
or “7x57M - S&B” mark meaning 7mm x 57mm Mauser-Sellier & Bellot and PN 
means pointed nose and RN (sometimes SN for soft nose) means round nose while 
for the 450/400 caliber cartridges we have not been able to know who were the main 
manufacturers of its cartridges at that time (perhaps ‘Kynoch’ ones as Elmer Keith 
used for it). 

But we also advise to you to have your findings documented and authentified by 
a third party authority namely one of those, the Forest Office Division of Champawat, 
office in Tanakpur or Champawat, the museum director of Kaladhungi, or the Cham- 
pawat Tourist office. Our appeal to you would consist of your promise that the first 
cartridge you find is to be donated to the Kaladhungi museum and any other subse- 
quent may be disposed of at your convenience either to be sold or donated to other 
museums. Your chances are definitely more than one percent that you find something 
there belonging to the past most precisely the 30th of November 1938. 


139 


Corbett’s rifles 


By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

This chapter has every reason to be of its own, owing to the recent developments 
in 2015 concerning two most famous rifles owned by Jim Corbett. This chapter sheds 
light on how Corbett fans can have access to at least one of their hero’s legendary 
rifles and gives thorough description in some cases of other rifles or guns which can 
or cannot be traced and seen. While Corbett never pictured any of his rifles, a few 
actual photos are given to you here. 

The Early Years (1907 - 1910) 

In Corbett’s first hunting encounters (1907 to 1910), the Champawat man-eater 
being the very first, there are some rifles described by him which we find in the books 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon and Temple Tiger. One is his double-barrelled (DB) .500 ex- 
press rifle (using modified cordite) which he uses on the Champawat man-eater and 
the Muktesar man-eater successfully. Alternatively he uses an old .450 Martini-Henry 
DB rifle, using black powder, in the ghooral hunt (Champawat chapter in Man-Eaters 
of Kumaon). This rifle, Corbett explains elsewhere to have been an old army one, ac- 
quired from a seafarer who had converted it in a sporting rifle. However we learn in 
Booth, Carpet Sahib (OUP2011) that this .450 rifle was given to Corbett during his 
St Petersfield days, but this is a fact we cannot ascertain. 

We also find Corbett with a DB 12-bore shotgun used on the Panar Leopard and a 
brand-new Westley- Richards Bolt Action in .275 with a 5-cartridge clip magazine test- 
ed unsuccessfully on the Temple tiger. This rifle Corbett says he bought from Manton’s, 
the gunsmith in Calcutta, the same year, that is 1909 - a newly proven date as per this 
book (see Controversies chapter). But in the later years, as from 1925 (Rudraprayag 
leopard), apart from the 12-bore shotgun, we see Corbett hunting with other rifles, 
which would acquire more fame than the previously cited ones. 

The active man-eater hunting years (1925 to 1938) 

One of the two Corbett’s best known rifles, the M98 bolt-action Rigby-Mauser in 
.275 with a 5-cartridge clip magazine, very similar to the Westley-Richards, which he 
was to use for his subsequent hunts, had been a gift from the British Administration 
in 1910. This was on the occasion of the visit of King George V in India, when John 
Prescott Hewett, the Governor of the United Provinces, also master of ceremony of the 
celebrations in Nainital presented Corbett the rifle with a steel plate engraving on the 
left butt, recognising the merit of the hunter for bringing the Champawat man-eater 


140 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


to bag in 1907. Many Corbett fans believe Corbett received the gift in 1907, but we 
cannot find any reason why he bought a similar one in 1909. 

We may never know what happened subsequently to the Westley- Richards, once 
the Rigby-Mauser obtained. Anyway we strongly suspect that as from the Leopard of 
Rudraprayag (killed in 1926), any mention made by Corbett in his books concern- 
ing ‘...the light .275 I was carrying...” was made to the Rigby-Mauser. We find him 
using it successfully on the Rudraprayag Leopard, the Talla-Des man-eater and cubs, 
and the Chowgarh man-eater. It was always accompanying Corbett as a light rifle for 
hill shooting. Corbett says the light .275 saved his life in the Chowgarh tigress final 
encounter while he had eggs in his left hand and earlier in Talla Des, we should like 
to imagine him playing the likes of ‘Lucky Luke’ when he dispatched three tigers in a 
row, and one of them falling in air a little later, though missed. 

The other famous Corbett rifle is his ‘faithful old friend’ the 450/400 express rifle, 
which in correct description is the 450-400 DB Nitro Express made by Jeffery & Co, 
which we find him using on the Rudraprayag leopard unsuccessfully and successful- 
ly on the Chowgarh cub, the Bachelor of Powalgarh, the Mohan man-eater, Kanda 
man-eater, the Chuka man-eater and the Thak man-eater. Corbett fans will debate 
whether he preferred the 450-400 or the Rigby-Mauser, but in Corbett’s words, both 
these rifles complement the other, that is true as from 1925 when he was carrying both 
on his hunts. When did Corbett acquire the 450-400 is a mystery. On 15 March 2015, 
James Julia, an Auctioneer in the USA, displayed Corbett’s faithful friend for auction 
and he assigns a date of manufacture as London 1909 on its catalogue but we cannot 
find a date or a place of purchase by Corbett. 

Other Guns - The Pipal Pani tiger wound 

In Jungle Lore Corbett says he use a 28-bore light shotgun for Dansay’s banshee 
(Churail), but we do not find any trace of it. We owe Late Mr D.C. Kala an unpub- 
lished information about Corbett’s shotguns (thanks to Mr Akshay Shah): Mr Verma, 
husband of Mrs Kalawatee Verma (both Late), to whom Gurney house was sold when 
the Corbetts left India, said that Corbett proposed him one of his two shotguns as 
gift before leaving. These were in the still-standing gun-rack of Gurney house. These 
shotguns could only have been the 28-bore and the D.B. 12-bore, but Mr Verma who 
never used guns declined the offer but accepted other attics left in the house like var- 
ious deer horns, head trophies and skulls. 

There is also his very first gun, given to him by his cousin Stephen Dease, a DB 
muzzle-loading shotgun which had only one barrel functioning, but this gun was used 
when Corbett was still a kid and had already vanished during his first man-eater days. 

In Kaladhungi, Choti Haldwani village, there is Corbett’s single barreled muzzle 
loading (SBML) gun in the possession of Trilock Singh, who’s father Sher Singh had 
been responsible for the ‘chaupal’, the stone-built guarding tower for shooting ma- 


CORBETT’S RIFLES 


141 


rauding pig or deer. It happens that it was the only gun in Kaladhungi at that time 
and Corbett writes of this fact that he gave this gun to protect crops in MY INDIA. 

In Pipal Pani Tiger chapter of Man-Eaters of Kumaon Corbett writes: 

“One November evening a villager, armed with a single-barrel muzzle-loading gun 
set out to try to bag a pig. . .” 

That villager only succeeded to wound the Pipal Pani tiger mistaken for a pig. Sher 
Singh’s father who was responsible for the ‘chaupaP at that time, in his much later years 
said to his grandson, whom we met in 2012 that he did once shoot a tiger with the 
SBML but did not kill it and that Corbett sahib then killed the tiger after a few days. 
We strongly suspect that it was the Pipal Pani tiger that was wounded with the SBML 
which is still there and can be viewed and handled for free by Corbett fans who visit 
Kaladhungi museum and subsequently Choti Haldwani village. 

The 450-400 "Faithful Old Friend” 

The rifle better known as the Grade 2 - 450-400 Double Barrel Nitro Express 
(D.B.N.E) manufactured by W. Jeffery & Co. has a box-lock ejector action with an 
internal cocking mechanism, using a 3 inch Nitro Express cartridge rimmed at .450 
of an inch. More description were furnished to potential buyers by James Julia, but 
the main ones are that its serial number is SN20176 and the barrels are engraved as 
follows: Right barrel engraved “W.J. JEFFERY & Co LTD” and left barrel “13 KING 
STREET St JAMES’S St”. The serial number gives one further information: It traces 
the owner as Col. James Edward Corbett sold to a certain Mr Davis. There is a letter 
dated February 1956 in the original canvas and leather outer case, attesting the sale. 
This will also be in possession of the new owner. For Corbett fans, who would have 
dreamed of handling or touching Corbett’s faithful old friend, we have a sad ending 
to this saga: A private collector who has wished to remain anonymous has acquired 
the rifle for USD230,000 during the auction and has intended not to display the rifle 
publicly. We respect his choice and we’ve sent him a request for a one-time or one- 
hour free public display to which he has not responded yet. 

The path followed by the 450-400 since it was auctioned in Kenya in February 
1956 and acquired by a Mr Davis takes it to Canada first in Vancouver city. Rumours 
have it that George Neary had persuaded this Mr Davis to sell him the rifle using 
mal-practice, but it is hard to believe since Elmer Keith described his friend George 
Neary as a good man. 

It is better that Elmer Keith explains you how he got the rifle from Neary: “I own 
the late Jim Corbett’s tiger rifle-the best quality box-lock .450-400(3”inch cartridge) 
double rifle by W.J. Jeffery & Co., with which he killed so many man-eating tigers for 
the Indian government. He also used it in Africa. The brass-cornered oak and leather 
case is in fine shape, while the rifle shows more use and less abuse than any old rifle I 
have ever seen. The metal is as bright as a silver dollar. The action is that good No. 2 


142 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Jeffery is sound and tight as a rat trap. Engraving shows up even better on the bright 
steel. Only traces of checkering are left. The stock ears are actually worn away from 
the frame, as is the butt of the stock from the engraved heel and toe plates. The bores 
are grey in the grooves from cordite, and the lands are worn down about halfway, but 
there are no pits from neglect. With Corbett lying out in tree crotches and machans in 
the rain waiting for tigers, this rifle was exposed to all kinds of weather. Jim Corbett 
had no Hoppes No. 9, or Rice’s X-10 solvent, but I would bet he poured many gallons 
of water through these tubes. In spite of external wear, this .450-400 is as effective and 
accurate a hunting rifle as when turned out by W.J. Jeffery & Co.. I fired both barrels 
at a six inch bull’s eye at 80 yards, shooting from a car window. The bullets (Kynoch 
400 grain softnose) landed one inch apart, one directly over the other, both cutting 
the centerline of the target. Jim sold this rifle to a man from Vancouver, and my friend 
George Neary got it from him. I swapped a perfect .350 Elliot caliber Danial Frazer 
double ejector for it. I would like to have known Jim Corbett. His book, Man-eaters 
of Kumoan, is a masterpiece on the Indian tiger and proves he knew more about life 
and habits, of that beast than any living man. I treasure his old rifle. You can judge a 
man by the condition of his rifle.” 

Elmer Keith, among the first American Corbett fans, was a big-game hunter and 
gun collector. He had also been a writer of books and publisher of “Gun Notes” a 
monthly newsletter in the USA and his words quoted above come from the April 
1967 issue of the newsletter. Keith, who admitted reading all Corbett’s hunting books 
many times, had used the 450-400 on elks, reindeers and grizzlies for four hunting 
seasons in the forests and mountains of North America, British Columbia (Canada) 
and Alaska before he decided to give the 450-400 a well deserved retirement in his 
gun collection museum in Idaho. Keith had also written many hunting books and 
our faithful old friend the 450-400 has had its last moment of glory when pictured 
in Keith’s last book “Hell, I was There”. A smoking gun pose for it next to an elk with 
antlers of gigantic proportions which Keith had just dropped on the snow. It is rare 
for the hunter to give a solitary pose to his rifle next to the game shot by him, but it 
just shows you how Elmer was proud of it. 

The .275 Rigby-Mauser for Corbett fans in the UK 

News broke in May 2015 from the facebook page of John Rigby & Co, manufac- 
turer of Corbett’s rifle that they had acquired this famous rifle, back to the source as 
they said (see the photo). 

The title made headlines in British newspapers as: ’’Rigby & Co. acquires revered 
hunter Jim Corbett’s legendary .275 Rigby rifle” - the caption beneath the photos said: 
“The world’s third oldest gun-maker, John Rigby & Co., has acquired one of the most 
famous sporting rifles of all time: the .275 Rigby bolt-action rifle that was presented 


CORBETT’S RIFLES 


143 


to Jim Corbett for killing the dreaded ‘man-eating tigress of Champawat’ in 1907 by 
Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces, Sir John Hewitt KCSI.” 

Marc Newton, Managing Director of Rigby, commented: “The Corbett gun is a 
real piece of Rigby history. Every gun that leaves our workshop has a piece of this ri- 
fle’s DNA in it. It’s fantastic to have it back with the firm and we’d encourage as many 
people as possible to come and see it for themselves.” 

A real opportunity for Corbett fans to see the rifle for themselves. The visiting 
time, day and address are as follows: 

“Please visit our showroom and workshop, 9:30AM - 6:00PM, Monday through 
Friday. JOHN RIGBY & CO., 13-19 PENSBURY PLACE, LONDON, ENGLAND, 
SW8 4TP - Please phone: +44 207 720 0757.” 

The rifle, most famous since it is associated with the Leopard of Rudraprayag has 
a letter from Corbett accompanying it. It says Corbett is giving the rifle for the Oxford 
University Press via Geoffrey Cumberlege, the then director for display in their then 
location, Amen House, London, UK. We had already seen a letter in MY KUMAON 
(2012OUP) page 82 from Cumberlege to Corbett and it seems it was a reply to this 
letter here in the photo: 

The reply from Cumberlege is as follows (Courtesy OUP, MY KUMAON (2012) 
pg 82). Extract: 

“My dear Corbett ...within an hour or two, there arrived your letter of the 24th 
offering us the .275 rifle presented to you by Sir Hewett. Naturally we should love to 
have this, not for shooting refractory authors but for display with your books as op- 
portunity occur! Will there be any difficulty about getting the rifle sent over? If you let 
me know when it has been shipped, I shall be glad as there may be certain formalities 
with the custom to be get over” Dated: 30 October 1953. 

Now the puzzle is complete for Corbett fans who were wondering where the rifle 
had been during all these decades. Originally it has been donated to OUP London, and 
then it had been stowed away, surely by one of OUP staff, to their archives or elsewhere 
away from the public since they moved from Amen House. Then came John Rigby 
& Co, at a certain moment in time they had it in their collection (in the 1990’s, long 
enough for a Corbett biographer to get a glimpse of it), then it disappeared again to 
re-appear in May 2015. You can appreciate its full story in Marc Newton’s chapter in 
this book entitled: “Corbett Magic: Rigby re-connects with Corbett.” 


144 


Corbett Magic: Rigby Re-Connects with Corbett 

BY MARC NEWTON 

One of the great pleasures of working at the helm of a London gun-maker is the 
access the job provides to the histories and adventures of the guns we made in the 
past and the personalities who carried them afield. 

The ledgers of John Rigby & Co. are brimming with famous names and curt en- 
tries indicating the shorthand summaries of conversations held between customers 
and managers; each one the beginning of a series of thrills, misadventure, success or 
tragedy. The kind of escapades in which the carriage of a rifle is part of the plan often 
involves notable action at some point along the way. 

We are fortunate that some of our customers are well known by their wider exploits 
as politicians, army officers, explorers or writers. While looking up a serial number, 
one can’t help but smile when the order turns out to have been made by a person of 
note. Vintage photographs sometimes give a clue; a familiar face in khaki, smiling 
through the decades and gasping the distinctive shape of a Rigby Mauser. Among 
those familiar faces popular ones are Karamoja Bell, Denys Finch Hatton, J.A. Hunter 
or even Queen Elizabeth II, to cite a few. 

Rigby also made shotguns; plenty of shotguns, as well as double rifles. Particularly 
notable are the classic doubles built on Rigby & Bissel’s ‘Rising Bite’ or, more properly, 
‘Vertical Bolt’ action, patented in 1878 and still available from Rigby as our signature 
double rifle. However, for many sportsmen hunting in the first third of the twentieth 
century, the rifle of choice was a light, accurate, dependable and ‘modern addition to 
the battery: The .275 calibre Rigby Mauser bolt action. 

This rifle was a collaboration between Rigby and the great German arms manu- 
facturer which saw these rifles, built on the famous Mauser ’98 action, sold in London 
by Rigby and thereby reaching sportsmen of the British Empire worldwide. This was 
a partnership that would prove to be both profitable for the company and beneficial 
to the colonial hunter, for the bolt-action rifle was a good deal cheaper than a hand- 
made double and a very versatile and effective companion. 

Among the colonial celebrities to have shouldered a Rigby Mauser, we can count 
the revered hunter of man-eating big-cats, author and humanitarian Jim Corbett, who 
resided at the time in Kumaon, a district in India’s United Provinces. The area was 
thickly forested and home to large populations of both tigers and leopards. Unfor- 
tunately for the local inhabitants, on occasion one of these animals would become a 
man-eater and in those days of peasant villages, existing un-lit and un-armed on the 
fringes of the jungle, these errant cats could account for many hundreds of victims over 
a period of years. When all else failed, the authorities and sometimes simple villagers 


CORBETT MAGIC: RIGBY RECONNECTS WITH CORBETT 


145 


would send a letter to Corbett, asking him to consider undertaking the dangerous task 
of stalking the problematic beast and bring about its demise. 

When he undertook these missions, Corbett stipulated that no other hunters be 
allowed in the area and that any reward money offered for the slaying of the man-eater 
be withdrawn. Corbett risked his life for the service he was able to provide to his fellow 
man. He was no bounty hunter. 

On one memorable occasion, Corbett succeeded in laying to rest a particularly 
troublesome man-eating tigress, which had been tormenting the villagers in a large 
area of forest around Champawat.This tigress had come to Champawat from Nepal 
after killing some two hundred people there and in the subsequent years had added 
over two hundred other victims in India. For bagging this tigress, Corbett was awarded 
a gift from Sir John Prescott Hewett, then Lt. Governor of the United Provinces. This 
gift was no mere ornament or medal, but something Corbett would find plenty of use 
for in the years to come. It was a Rigby Mauser .275 rifle, with a simple oval in-let 
into the butt and inscribed: 

"Presented to Mr. J.G. Corbett by Sir J.P. Hewett KCSI, Lieutenant 
Governor of the United Provinces in recognition of his having killed 
a man-eating tigress at Champawat in 190 7". 

We know a good deal about Jim Corbett because he had the rare gift of being able 
to write with the passion, attention to detail and clarity with which he applied himself 
to hunting. His best known book ‘Man-eaters ofKumaon was an instant classic. First 
published in 1944 by Oxford University Press (Bombay), for 1000 copies only, the 
book went on to sell more than 536,000 copies worldwide at its third reprint in 1946. 
Subsequently translated in more than three-dozen languages, it has remained in print 
ever after and some ten million copies have been sold to date. 

Further books followed, thrilling readers with more exploits in search of danger- 
ous quarry in dense jungles, but also recounting his life and observations of India, 
its flora, fauna and people. These beautifully written homages to a world long since 
disappeared rank among the best available memoirs of the Raj in its last decades, told 
from the boondocks, rather than the palaces of power. 

Among other Corbett’s adventures was the pursuit of an almost mythical leopard, 
which had killed so many people and avoided concerted attempts to trap, shoot and 
poison it, that locals considered it to be an evil spirit, rather than a beast of the jungle. 
This leopard was arguably the most publicised man-eater that ever existed for he was 
mentioned in the press of numerous countries worldwide including other parts of 
India, as Corbett himself mentions: 

"However, be the number of human kills what they may, Garhwal can 
claim that this leopard was the most publicised animal that has ever 
lived, for he was mentioned — to my knowledge — in the press of the 
United Kingdom, America, Canada, South Africa, Kenya, Malaya, Hong 


146 


BY MARC NEWTON 


Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and in most of the dailies and weeklies 
in India. 

Nobody thought Corbett would have any more success in his efforts than the 
numerous other hunters who had tried before. 

However, true to form, Corbett did shoot what became known as the ‘Man-eating 
Leopard of Rudraprayag’. He used his Rigby .275. This was the only hunt for which 
Corbett dedicated a whole book. 

Following his accomplishment in Rudraprayag, three years later Corbett would 
also be credited for yet another exploit with the .275. This was when Corbett en- 
countered the man-eating tigress of Talla-Des and her two grown cubs for the first 
time. This tigress had established a reign of terror of eight long years in the small 
locality of Talla-Des in Eastern Kumaon accounting for more than 150 lives during 
that period. It appears from Corbett’s writing that he shot all these three tigers in a 
row in what can be qualified as a terrific show of marksmanship. Any sportsman who 
has known or used the M98 Bolt action would be amazed in learning that Corbett 
managed this feat with the .275 Rigby despite the chaos that followed the smack of 
the 173grain bullet on the first tiger (at a range of 120 yards) causing the rest to flee 
in opposite directions and at varying ranges while reloading and aligning the sights 
on them successively in turn before they went out of range. 

These stories are some of those on which I grew up. They passed into folklore and 
stayed with me as I grew to adulthood with a love of hunting and the sporting guns 
that go hand-in hand with our sport. 

The coincidence of this, now grown-up, boy and the famous rifle meeting in a 
London gun room, more than a century after it was handed to the much-loved slayer 
of man-eaters, is a complex one. Before finding its way into the Rigby Collection, 
Corbett’s .275 was to have more than a few adventures. 

Originally supplied to Calcutta outlet Manton & Co, the rifle was selected by 
Lt. Governor Hewett as a presentation gift to Corbett. It was handed over to him in 
1910. Having led a fruitful life in his hands for almost half a century, Corbett, facing 
retirement in Kenya, wrote to his old friend and publisher at Oxford University Press, 
Mr Geoffrey Cumberlege and suggested his trusted Rigby might find an appropriate 
resting place at their headquarters at Amen House in London. This was the same 
publishing house that had done so much to spread his stories to eager readers all over 
the globe, making him a household name and no doubt, a degree more financially 
comfortable than he would otherwise have been. Corbett’s letter to Cumberlege in 
1953 reads: 

' One of our most valued possessions is the .275 rifle .... This ri- 
fle has accounted for many man-eaters , and its exploits are mentioned 
a hundred times in my books. My shooting days are now over and I am 
wondering if you could find a corner... where this faithful old friend. 


CORBETT MAGIC: RIGBY RECONNECTS WITH CORBETT 


147 


who has saved my life on many occasions , could pass his well earned 
retirement in peace and comfort.' (Readers can see the photo of this letter.) 

Cumberlege found the idea agreeable and the Rigby was duly delivered and resided 
there happily until 1978, when it became a rather unfortunate headline in the local 
newspaper. By this time, ownership of firearms was being taken more seriously by the 
police than had previously been the case and the presence of a rifle in a publishing 
house was noticed by the constabulary, who seemed less than impressed. The story 
hit the press as ‘ Tiger Killer Gun Seized’ {see. the photos of the articles). For a while it 
appeared possible that Corbett’s beloved relic would be scrapped or de-activated but 
somehow negotiations achieved an agreeable compromise and the rifle was sent to 
Rigby in London for secure storage, while a long term resolution to the problem was 
being considered. 

Months turned to years. In 1997 Rigby moved from London to the USA when it 
passed from the ownership of Paul Roberts to some American investors. But Corbett’s 
rifle was kept in London, almost forgotten. But not quite... 

When the L & O group took control of Rigby in 2013, I found myself in charge 
of the firm, which returned once again in London, once again building Rigby Mauser 
rifles and then, one day Corbett’s .275 surfaced. My co-director Patricia Pugh and I 
were in place to try to make a plan about what might be done about it. My feelings 
about the rifle were clear from the outset. If Corbett’s Rigby belonged anywhere, it 
belonged here, in Pensbury Place, home of Rigby, where it could act as a beacon to 
lovers of hunting history and as a manifestation of the classic Rigby bolt-action rifle: 
one we have resurrected as a production model, decades after it last appeared in Rig- 
by catalogues. The past could represent the present and Jim Corbett’s rifle embodied 
everything we now stand for as a company. 

In March 2015, we agreed terms with Oxford University Press and secured the 
Corbett rifle for our collection. Immediately it attracted attention, as sportsmen and 
women gathered at every opportunity to hold in their hands the very rifle they had 
read about all those years ago, in the days when Corbett’s stories thrilled their young 
minds and helped cement the love of hunting that they still hold dear. 

The CL A Game Fair, held at Flarrogate in the UK, later in July 2015 gave us an 
opportunity to display the .275 on our stand and members of the public were drawn 
in good numbers, as too were representatives of the press. This time the publicity was 
all positive. 

When the public gets involved, more light is often shed on any subject and this 
proved to be the case for us when we exhibited the rifle at the Game Fair. Book dealer 
Paul Morgan, of Coch-y-Bonddu Books came forward with a Corbett story of his own. 

He had in his possession an old copy of Jim Corbett’s original foray into print and 
explained little about its history. Apparently, back in 1935, living in a remote part of 
northern India, accessing a printer was no easy task for a man like Jim Corbett. He 


148 


BY MARC NEWTON 


had written a collection that he called ‘Jungle Stories’ and sent it to a local company 
called The London Press, in Naini Tal. 

This was a small concern, since they had never printed a whole book before. The 
story is taken up by Corbett’s biographer Martin Booth in ‘Carpet Sahib” (Constable 
1986): 

. .the printer was faced with quite a problem but agreed to do 
the job a page at a time which was all his font of type could run to: 
page by page, Jim and Maggie (Jim's sister ) proof-read and corrected 
or changed the text before it was finally run off. The print was re- 
used for the next page. After four months, Jim had his first book... it 
was 104 pages long and was bound in a brown manilla paperback-type 
cover of the paper more usually used to wrap parcels and was stitched 
with twine at the spine. One hundred copies were printed." 

Corbett later wrote: 

"Retaining one copy I started to distribute the other copies 
among friends , but owing to demand for additional copies for rela- 
tives in other parts of the world I was only able to give 75 friends 
copies. Those copies drifted from hand to hand until the majority had 
been read to death...". 

Paul told me he saw a copy of this book listed for sale in another dealer’s cata- 
logue, “about twenty Jive years ago”. Knowing of its rarity, he called immediately and 
bought it before anyone else noticed. He continued: 

"Rather than offer it for sale I have kept it in my own collection 
ever since, having a fine clam-shell book-box made for it by my book- 
binder. I had told my friend Robert Bucknell of its existence , but 
it was only when Rigby held the exhibition of Corbett memorabilia at 
the 2015 CLA Game Fair that I was tempted to bring it out of hiding" . 

How strange fate can be? I thought. The maker of Corbett’s famous rifle, in 2015 
holding a rare copy of his very first attempt to distribute written accounts of his ad- 
ventures to an audience outside his immediate vicinity. 

We now had Jim Corbett’s Rigby, we had collected some interesting and insightful 
correspondence between Corbett and Oxford University Press including his signature, 
we even had newspaper cuttings from the ‘dark days of the seventies’ when the rifle’s 
fate was in the balance. How wonderful would it be to re-unite the book, so painstak- 
ingly created in Naini Tal, with the Rigby, which rested in the gun rack of Corbett’s 
modest home while production of that very book was taking place? If only we could 
find a way. 

The book was for sale, with a suitably hefty price tag and, much as I wanted it, the 
budget could not stretch that far so I was resigned to bidding it farewell at the end of 
the show. Little did I suspect that a kind benefactor was about to amaze me with an 
unbelievable generous act of kindness. 


CORBETT MAGIC: RIGBY RECONNECTS WITH CORBETT 


149 


Robert Bucknell will be known to some readers as a prolific contributor to pub- 
lications on rifle shooting and fox control and as the author of ‘ Foxing with Lamp & 
Rifle. Robert took me totally by surprise when he walked onto our stand clutching 
the rare copy of Jungle Stories’, handed it to me and offered it to me on long-term 
loan with the words; 

"I am a passionate Rigby and Corbett fan. I bought the book to 
prevent it disappearing into a private collection overseas where no- 
one would see it - this way every Corbett admirer can enjoy his work." 

How can one respond to such an action? My immediate words to Robert were “Vow 
restored my faith in humanity!" This was what I called “Corbett Magic”. We and all 
Corbett fans are extremely grateful to Robert for his generosity and will ensure that 
it is available to be appreciated for years to come. 

This is the story so far, as the Rigby collection gathers momentum and another 
fascinating artefact joins those on display in our London showroom. I’m delighted to 
extend an open invitation to sportsmen who appreciate such things to visit us and 
share a cup of coffee, discuss the old days and perhaps even take a peek at the new 
rifles we are making on-site. 

We have also undertaken a special exhibition-quality presentation rifle in .275, 
to be sold as a fund-raiser for Safari Club International, inspired by Jim Corbett and 
engraved with scenes from his books, as originally drawn by Raymond Sheppard. 
Following hot on its heels will be our new Rigby medium game rifle in the same, 
classic, calibre. It will be very close to replicating the Corbett rifle and we hope it 
will inspire a new generation of hunters to shoulder a Rigby as they set out on their 
hunting adventures. 

Looking at this .275 Rigby rifle that Jim Corbett, an immensely talented and hum- 
ble human called “my old trusted friend,” brings thoughts and memories of a man who 
showed us an ample example of how to be humble, unselfish, how to serve humanity, 
how to fight against the destruction of nature, and basically, how to “. . .make the world 
a better place to for others to live in.” 


150 


Jim Corbett’s films 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

This is a modest attempt to describe what can still be deciphered from the re- 
maining twenty or so 28 reels of 16mm films that have been put on magnetic tapes 
(video) and kept by the British National Film Archive - BNFA - in London, UK. They 
are thought to be the surviving remains of the thousands of feet of cine-films which 
Jim Corbett is claimed to have produced during his cine-photography years ranging 
from 1928 to just prior of his death which he donated to the British Natural Elistory 
Museum - BNEIM - possibly in 1953 during Corbett’s last visit to England, two years 
after a public screening at the Amen House in 1951, former Oxford University Press 
headquarters in London and who have stood the test of time. For more than half a 
century Corbett fans have longed to see them, in vain. Only when a small fraction 
now remain that the chance is being given to the fans to contemplate a little of what 
the eyes of their very hero had witnessed during the last quarter of a century of his 
life. An appeal is hereby forwarded by the authors of this book to the authorities con- 
cerned, the United Nations and UNESCO to declare these remaining Corbett films, a 
cinematographic treasure as a World Cultural Heritage. 

A trip to the UK in July to August 2011 for family affairs had arranged my long 
thought research for the Corbett films. I must admit that I knew that my chances 
were next to none of finding anything because in Kala’s book itself published in 1979, 
he had stated that the films were in very fragile and bad shape as at the 1950’s, but I 
comforted myself to finding at least the record that such films were kept and hoped to 
see a frame or two that might have survived. At that time, London was under public 
riot and it was not easy circulating, some underground stations had been closed and 
taxis (London Cabs) were not operating normally. However, thanks to Martin Booth 
and D.C. Kala, I knew that I had to head to South Kensington at the BNHM since it 
was at this museum that Corbett had been known to have donated his films. There, 
the museum curator informed me after two days of my original quest that the films 
had been deposited at the BNFA since the late 1960’s. A first visit at the BNFA that 
very afternoon revealed that it was next to impossible to be able to retrace films that 
had been kept at the archives some forty years ago unless I knew the title, because 
the archives reference the title and the director of photography, director, producer 
etc... I knew only two titles from Kala’s book: Seven Tigers and African Wildlife and 
of course the director, author, producer etc... as Jim Corbett. Once the search query 

28 twenty or so means that officially the BNHM has deposited 16 reels to the BNFA prior to 1968, these 
are certified authentic Corbett ones and four or five remaining ones have been deposited by private 
donors from 1984 to 1992, who have not revealed their identity. Though the private donors have 
stated them being by Jim Corbett, we cannot unfortunately be sure of the fact. 


JIM CORBETT’S FILMS 


151 


form filled, found me returning to the guest room where I was staying. I remember 
that night watching the BBC TV announcing that the match between Tottenham 
Hotspur and Everton had been called off. My dream of ever watching a live English 
game in the stadium vanished as the guest room owner Mrs Audrey had a spare ticket 
for the game which she agreed to give to me, the White Hart Lane stadium, house of 
Tottenham Hotspur FC, was only half an hour by cab away. 

The next day, however, success called in at early morning. Not for the football, 
but the BNFA, whose archives curator from the curatorial team of the BFI National 
Archive (British Film Industry National Archive, or simply BNFA) announced that 
there is a good and a bad news. As per the usual protocol, I wanted the bad one first, 
it was that there were no titles such as ‘Seven Tigers’ or African Wildlife’ but half 
a good news, ‘Wildlife Africa’ existed and the good news was that the latter is by a 
certain “Jim Corbett” and the possibility of video viewing exist. I could not believe 
my ears: A film called “Wildlife Africa by Jim Corbett”. Now how many Jim Corbett 
have made a film on wildlife in Africa? Not five I supposed, so I literally flew to the 
address: 21 Stephen Street to investigate more. To cut a long story short, the archive 
curator had found “not quite 20” films who have been directed by Jim Corbett, or 
Director of Photography, and that Jim Corbett of whom no much information was 
given except that he was born on 25 July 1875(in India) and died on the 19th of April 
1955 (in the Cayman Isles???) and that he was the “first ever to make moving films 
of tigers”. These information on the author were supplied by the BNHM when the 
latter donated the films to the BNFA prior to 1968 and had been on the old files in 
the archives of the BNFA. An institution such as the BNHM who held treasures from 
Ancient Egypt, paleontological fossils and other historic or pre-historic vestiges, can- 
not be taken lightheartedly on the matter of “the first person...” If they had supplied 
this information with the film reels, then it must have been. A second appeal from 
us would be that any reader knowing tiger films made prior to 1928 is requested to 
contact the publishers of this book. 

Here are in descriptive form, what can still be seen from the remaining films. I 
also admit that I was too busy contemplating the all black and white silent films and 
trying to fix in my mobile phone camera at the same time, that most of the information 
supplied here comes from the curator team of the BNFA having screened them many 
times also afterwards, of which I made notes and are now available on their website, 
and now the films have been properly tagged and archived so that it is available for 
any Corbett fan to go and arrange for a scheduled viewing. 

As a guide: 400 feet of 16mm film run through approximately 12 minutes. 

KENYA WILDLIFE - PERSONAL FILM - 1953 (by Jim Corbett as Director of 
Photography 1953) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum (1966) 

16mm 135ft - video viewing copy available 


152 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


It appears clearly to be an African Savannah, probably Kenyan landscapes and 
wildlife, most probably the exact location is just off the Aberdare range near Nyeri. 
Quick zooms in succession through trees, hills and lake, medium shot of elephants, 
herd of elephants on plain with car (a big 2HP Citroen like model) in middle, gazelle, 
birds, medium shot of giraffe, gazelle, zebra and medium shot of rhino by lake. Severely 
broken images though, it appears to have been part of a longer running film. This is 
shot on ground and not from the Tree Tops hotel as a friend of mine suggested later 
when described to him (..) 

INDIAN ELEPHANTS IN THE SERVICE OF MAN (1938) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 
16mm 405ft - video viewing copy available 

The processing box of this one has a clear tag marked the year 1938. It is among 
the longest of all the others, some 12 minutes, hence benchmarking the relation be- 
tween feet and minutes. This is clearly in India, seen by the villagers’ appearance, and 
the land topography showing some quite tall hills in the background seems indicating 
Kaladhungi at the foot of the hills. It shows the washing of the elephants by the master 
(mahout) and their use in the fields and for hauling felled logs. The elephants (at most 
three of them perhaps four) are then fixed with a seat, lashed under the shoulders of 
the animals. Clearly a rifle is sent to the mahout. A man (clearly cannot be Corbett, as 
not quite tall, could be a woman) then a second, Indian this time climb on the animal. 
Seems that they are going out for a hunting trip, the film ends as the elephants charged 
with men are seen in a plain opening with trees to the far left side. Lights were not 
very good for the film though. 

HONEY HARVEST IN INDIA (1936) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 
16mm 237ft - video viewing copy available 

There is an original old tag on the processing box of the film, it is written “No.28, 
1936”, hence I get the date, but God only knows what the No.28 stands for. This one 
shows Indians gathering honey from trees. On the left, a man in top branches of a 
tree lowers a basket of honey to the ground. An Indian, at the foot of the tree, throws 
a rope into the branches. The honey gatherer climbs up the rope. Wearing some pro- 
tective clothing, he clambers towards a hive (could only be that); he clears away the 
swarm of bees (seen as black smoke) with a bundle of smoking twigs (these smokes 
are whiter than the ‘bee smoke’), then lowers lumps of honey in a basket. The process 
is repeated at another hive. The bees dispersing before the smoking twigs, I guess 
that what can be interpreted when the ‘black smoke’ vanishes when the white smoke 
comes. The gatherer slices up the honey and lowers it to the ground. The gatherer then 
climbs down the rope. The Indian at the foot of the tree places chunks of honey in a 
box. Then the film is cut and opens on a group of Indians; the honey is being heated 


JIM CORBETT’S FILMS 


153 


in large pots standing on long ovens in the ground. End. A treasure of film showing 
traditional honey collection in Indian jungles. What a masterpiece Jim! 

JIM CORBETT PERSONAL FILM WANDERING TIGERS IN NORTH INDIA 
(Circal935) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 

16mm 409ft - video viewing copy available 

The title of this film was handwritten possibly by the BNHM and the date is 
preceded by ‘circa’ meaning approximate. This could be anytime between 1928 to 
1938. What we see next is surprising. We see men (Indian origin) cutting branches 
from a tree then we are shown a dead tiger with crowd of Indians surrounding it on 
the ground, a big male, from my point of view. We then get a shot of countryside 
which give us a hint of the location where it is shot. The background has the snow 
covered Himalayas unmistakably. This suggest that the location might be either North 
of Nainital behind the Cheena peak or might as well be near the Ramganga river, in 
the Path Dun valley. The next shot shows a tiger wandering through a river bed then 
joined by another tiger. This could well have been in the Kaladhungi ‘jungle studio’ 
at the Boar river tributary since it appears that the camera was high up in a tree. The 
first tiger drinks at the stream. Then it cuts to two tigers with their kill - a bullock or 
water buffalo. This shot reminds me of a plate in Man-Eaters of Kumaon where we 
see a tiger dragging a kill while a second watches. It cuts again. We then see a group 
of tigers eating from a kill (unidentifiable) in the forest. This film is very strange as it 
appears to have joined several bits from several films. That is why certainly that the 
date is not exact. The last extract of the film we see a group of tigers eating together, 
appears to have come from the film “Seven Tigers” as it is the only film where Corbett 
manages to draw a group of tigers together around a kill. Certainly it must be. A pity 
that this films has several joins, so that we might never know their exact origin and 
location of shooting except for the first part. 

CHITAL DEER - FOOTHILLS OF THE HIMALAYAS (1933) 

Donor not listed, probably Natural History Museum 

16mm 209ft - video viewing copy available 

This film comes from the same batch of ‘prior to 1968’ and it carries a number 
too “No. 30”. Now for this one I’m dead sure that it is the film that Corbett takes on 
the 21st of May 1933 at Maldhan, a terai village between Kashipur and Ramnagar. 
We see chital deer grazing and drinking in the foothills of the Himalayas (in the 
background). A large herd of deer (unidentifiable species mixed with chitals, Corbett 
called them ‘Gond’ in his letter to Maggie) grazing in the open. Several deer are seen 
in a forest clearing. Then we see deer grazing in the open. Then a close up of a deer, 
not a chital, but a ‘gond’ seemingly. Then a magnificent chital stag, which looks at the 
camera, Corbett has been discovered! Then several chital stags and females standing 
on hind legs to eat from low branches . Then a herd in a clearing numbering some 


154 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


fifteen. Next up are deer drinking from a stream then one of them seen bathing in a 
the muddy stream. Magnificent film by Corbett! 

LIFE AT THE FOOTHILLS OF THE HIMALAYAS (1932) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 

16mm 408ft - video viewing copy available 

This film has no tags for a title, only a date. This could be village scenery shot by 
Corbett in 1932 after killing the Kanda man-eater near the Dhikala range, seems like 
terai villages. Shots of crops being harvested, women sitting on the ground cutting 
wheat or rice stalks not sure which. The forest surrounding is thickly undergrown. 
Another village, women carrying water pots “It was the duty of the women” I said to 
myself when lost in my thoughts. The waterfall is then shown “where the water is” 
I quickly imagined. Men ploughing fields then three children, I thought they were 
playing, no they are sowing seeds, could be in Choti Haldwani also, I became wise 
after the event of seeing however. Good film though Corbett seems very tatty with 
his equipment. 

TIGER WITH KILL (1931) 

Private donor - 1992 

16mm 37ft - video viewing copy available 

This film is given by a private donor who is not listed by the BNFA. I doubt if it 
is Corbett but I clearly see the Cheena peak where Manfred and myself had photo- 
graphed in April 2012. It is however taken behind the peak opposite of Nainital where 
there is a beautiful dense forest. This film lasts less than a minute and it ultimately 
shows a tiger with a kill and cuts abruptly to its end. Was it a Jim Corbett film afterall? 

JIM CORBETT PERSONAL FILM WILDLIFE, AFRICA (1930) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 

16mm 241ft - video viewing copy available 

Let’s pay homage to this title as this was the one film which put the BNFA team on 
the track of finding others. A good four and a half minute film showing the African 
savannah. This one is warranted to have been shot in 1930, when Corbett used to 
travel annually to Tanganyika. So this is today’s Tanzania and since Corbett was staying 
near the Kikafu estate, twelve miles of Moshi, to the north of the Moshi to Arusha 
road. A big mountain appears in the very far background, pity we do not distinguish 
its snow-covered peak or not, for it is either Mount Kilimanjaro(only one with snow 
peak), Mount Meru or the Ngorongoro crater. The film shows good footage of wild- 
life at a waterhole, certainly a bed of a river during the dry season, wildebeests for a 
majority then perhaps a few impalas or waterbucks. This film has perhaps only one 
join and the longest one concentrates on the water hole and a tree hide nearby seeing 
lots of wildebeests and waterbucks moving about. We are able to guess that Corbett 


JIM CORBETT’S FILMS 


155 


rested his focus on the waterhole long enough in hope to capture on reel the attack of 
a crocodile which unfortunately did not happen. 

JIM CORBETT PERSONAL FILM INDIAN WOMEN (Circa 1930) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 
16mm 56ft - video viewing copy available 

This film quite short less than two minutes has a puzzling scribble on the process- 
ing box: It is written quite indecipherably “Viceroy’s garden, Delhi + Nainital”. We see 
young Indian women posing for camera, then older Indian man (now reminds me of 
Mothi Singh’s grandson we saw in Choti Haldwani) and family. Then it cuts to some 
sort of plantation, the scribble helps us to visualize it more a garden than a plantation, 
could be the viceroy’s garden in New Delhi, but since Linlithgow came to office in 
1935, we have serious doubts on the date although it is said to be approximate. But it 
is definitely in Delhi as the film cuts to end on some sort of buildings which cannot 
be rural. 

TIGERS IN STREAM (1930) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 
16mm 155ft - video viewing copy available 

I refer here to a note written when actually viewing this film. I wrote: Date not 
correct, must be in 1938. It certainly has to be 1938 in the ‘jungle studio’ since this is 
unmistakably shot from a machan or from a tree at most eight feet above the ground. 
We see two tigers prowl along a river bed, a male and a female and lie down in the 
water, three and a half minutes of pure beauty! I did not go to see Corbett’s jungle 
studio despite a very accurate plan given to Manfred by late Omi Anand, so I cannot 
ascertain that. 

TIGER HUNTING IN NORTH INDIA (1930) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 
16mm 377ft - video viewing copy available 

This would be one of the filming of the hunting with a governor or a viceroy, the 
date suggest that it was the ‘bundobast’ (meaning large input of beaters and white 
hunters) organized for Sir Malcolm Hailey in 1930 at the Bijrani range of the to-be 
Ramganga NP. This film actually shows the shooting of animals. Please don’t read this 
paragraph further if that hurts your feelings. We see hunters travelling on elephants 
to a meeting place where other elephants and people are waiting and from which the 
elephants then advance in a line. All of a sudden, the film cuts and opens on a leopard 
which is being shot (you see the animal clearly), then a tiger [actual shooting is not 
seen, we see only a dead body of it on the ground). Both dead animals are hauled 
by Indians and lashed on top of an elephant. The film of the shooting then cuts and 
we see the elephants are washed in a river and then proceed back to the camp where 
the catch, that is the two animals are laid down and are examined. The tiger is given 


156 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


to the Indians who lift and lash it to another elephant. Next we see the dead tiger on 
the ground surrounded by villagers. About the last thirty seconds the focus is left on 
the animal. If Corbett was filming, surely Hailey was the shooter unless it was Percy 
Wyndham and his beaters and elephants. 

INDIA: HUNTING WITH ELEPHANTS (1930) 

Donated by the Natural History Museum 

16mm 256ft - video viewing copy available 

This film seems to be part of the previous one but here no shooting occurs. It shows 
a seven minutes or so of the arrangement of hunting on elephant back. Some thirty or 
maybe more beaters are seen, cutting in two groups, moving each group in opposite 
directions, then the elephants are made to stand in an arrangement, forming roughly a 
straight line and advancing at a lesser pace than the beaters till the latter disappear in 
tall grass. You can appreciate the immensity of such arrangement for big game hunting 
in India by the ‘bundobast-wallas’ (those who tie-up loose ends by spreading mats of 
money on the jungle floor). This film together with the previous one above is proof 
of the sheer indiscriminate slaughter of the Indian fauna during the colonial period. 

LIFE IN DELHI (Circa 1930) 

Donor not listed - Possibly BRITISH MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY 

16mm 390ft - video viewing copy available 

This is a very early film of Jim Corbett which has the particularity of not depict- 
ing any wildlife or natural forest. It shows the urban forest rather and that in Delhi. I 
would have wish I had known some of the buildings in Old Delhi, but unfortunately 
I don’t so I cannot recognize any of them. I leave the comment to the curator’s team: 
“Amateur film about aspects of colonial life in Delhi, India.” A good old archive of life 
in Delhi though not certain to be a Jim Corbett film. 

BIRDS AND BEASTS (Circa 1930) 

Donor not listed, probably Natural History Museum 

16mm 290ft - video viewing copy available 

I have to avow that I am not familiar with all bird species particularly in North 
India. Therefore I’m not much of a help here to describe the birds seen in this film. All 
I can tell is that we see shots of various birds and reptiles in a bhabar forest. Then we 
see a flock of birds flying in circles. Two white stork-like birds swimming and fishing 
in a pond. Then a succession of birds of various species feeding on a patch of grass. 
They are joined by two squirrels or chipmunks!?). A peacock (this one I know) walking 
along a stone-covered ground. A dog brings a dead bird towards the camera (That 
good old Robin). Robin then circles round a stationary lizard or chameleon, which 
disappears down a hole in the ground as a second dog attacks it (this one is unknown, 
could be Rosina). The next shot shows a hooded snake crawling alongside a wall (a 
cobra or hamadryad as called in North India). It is killed by stones thrown at it by 


JIM CORBETT’S FILMS 


157 


unseen person (most probably by the cameraman himself!). Another shot at a large 
snake which is disturbed from a scrub and crawls along the ground. Later afterwards 
I came to know from Martin Booth’s book that all of this film have probably been shot 
in Naya Gaon near Kaladhungi possibly late April or early May 1933. 

JIM CORBETT PERSONAL FILM INDIA WILDLIFE HUNT (1929) 

No donor listed, 16mm 

This film is tagged by the BNFA for not being certain to be a Jim Corbett film. But 
I see some snaps in it which reminds me of the elephant back hunting that Corbett 
took part in Bindhukera in February 1929 when a gun incident caused serious injury 
to his ear. We see Indian and European men and women on back of elephant, elephants 
advancing in line with the Europeans having rifles at their shoulders ready to fire then 
we directly see a dead stag (with decent antlers) being tied onto an elephant. Then 
it cuts back to the camp, a group photograph is taken of the European hunter (most 
probably Malcolm Hailey or Percy Wyndham) and family (two European women, one 
could be a daughter and the other the mother) pose in front of elephants and mahouts. 
Next frame show party setting out again this time a dead leopard is hauled over to 
the elephant then another leopard loaded onto another elephant. Some seven minutes 
of that famous hunt described in prelude of the story of the Talla-Desh man-eater in 
the book Temple Tiger. 

That was all for the time being, I hope there are more others waiting to be ‘un- 
earthed’ from the archives of the BNFA or maybe the BNHM too. I would advise 
you to who want to see these films to book early in London, London, the area code 
is WIT 1LN the address, 21 Stephen street and the telephone number of the BNFA 
is Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7255 1444. Stay two weeks at most. Apply at the Research 
Viewing Service on the very first day you reach there. It might take sometimes up to 
ten days to be able to view a group of archives. I must tell you to bring a good over 
25MP video camera. Please also be reminded that the BNFA is a self-financed insti- 
tution, so it requires a fee for viewing, ask their fee by phoning. 

It now becomes more than serious to move the issue to the UNESCO of the Unit- 
ed Nations for scholars of such institutions affiliated to it to bring about a motion at 
the said organization to declare the films of Jim Corbett as a World Cultural Heritage 
Treasure. By films we mean the original ones in their original processing boxes, not the 
magnetic tapes who are also with the BNFA. This is our plea, backed by the hundreds 
of thousands of Indians, direct descendants of those whose lives have been in a way 
or the other been affected in the positive way through contact, direct or indirect with 
the domiciled Anglo-Indian Jim Corbett, of North India particularly of the Kumaon 
region and whose legacy has been carried across the five continents through his books 
and his second to none mastery of jungle craft, who has helped the poor, the invalid 
soldier, the Indian civil servants, the widows, orphans, and men, women and children 


158 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


of India even after his death and of course the domestic and wild animals of North 
India of the Kumaon-Garhwal region. 

That his films and particularly the surviving ones proved that he was the first who 
had taken moving photography of tigers and animals of North India, that his love for 
the simple hardy hill folks was not forsaken from his books and that his knowledge 
and understanding of the jungle was above than average for a person who had not 
taken a biology course, being also among the first municipal counsellors of the world 
to have declared a rest day for animals involved in domestic work and last but not 
least, among the very first person to have created environmental awareness among his 
counterparts and could be well the first person to have fought in defence of wildlife 
and for the establishment of a wildlife reserve in India and perhaps one of the first 
in the world also. The authors of this book are ready to draft a formal plea if being 
requested, contact the publisher. 


159 


“Through Wounds and old age”: 
man-eating in Corbett's time and in a recent 
perspective as a multi causal phenomenon 

By MANFRED WALTL 


1. Corbett’s view about man-eating 

"A man-eating tiger is a tiger that has been compelled, through 
stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien 
to it. The stress of circumstances is, in nine out of ten cases, 
wounds, and in the tenth case old age.... Human beings are not the 
natural prey of tigers, and it is only when tigers have been in- 
capacitated through wounds or old age that, in order to live, they 
are compelled to take a diet of human flesh" (Corbett vii). This statement 
in “author’s note”, the introductive chapter of “Man-eaters of Kumaon”, shows Corbetts 
general view upon such an in his eyes rare and aberrant behaviour. Actually he con- 
firmed wounds or old age in the post mortems of almost all man-eating tigers he had 
shot. With the Chowgarh tigress, the claws and one of her canine teeth were broken 
and the front teeth worn down to the bone. Such defects, a combination of old age 
and injuries, he considered more than sufficient to explain her man-eating behaviour. 
A broken canine and several pellets of buck-shot embedded in different parts of the 
body could be found in the case of the Chuka man-eater whereas in the right and the 
left shoulder of the Thak tigress, according to Corbett otherwise a comparative young 
animal in perfect condition, there were two old gunshot wounds, one of them gone 
septic. This he suspected to be the cause for her man-eating behaviour thought he had 
to admit, it was difficult to say to what extent the wounds had incapacitated her. Fleavy 
injuries caused by porcupine quills could be found in other tigers, for example the Mo- 
han man-eater, who had more than twenty fife quills up to five inches long embedded 
in his left foreleg. This had given the animal such of a pain, that it made low moaning 
sounds while walking through the village. The Muktesar tigress had lost an eye in the 
encounter with a porcupine and got fifty quills embedded in the arm and under the 
pad of her right foreleg. And from the right foreleg and shoulder of the Tala Des tigress 
Corbett took some twenty porcupine quills which he considered to be the cause for the 
tigress’ becoming a man-eater. 

But Corbett’s view was not confined to wounds and old age. Though referring to 
them as the main causes, he in fact had a considerably wider view taking in account 
other causes too - at least in combination with wounds or old age. In “authors note” 
he mentions scarcity of natural prey as well as the nature of the disability or whether it 
is a male or a female with cubs, as having an effect at least on the frequency of human 


160 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


kills. In this context he also blames human responsibilities for prey scarcity when - de- 
fending the tiger from being branded as cruel and bloodthirsty - he states, that only 

"on rare occasions when driven by dire necessity, he kills a human 
being or when his natural food has been ruthlessly exterminated 
by men he kills two percent of the cattle he is alleged to have 

killed..." (Corbett xi-xii). 

Another point is shown in his detailed description of the Muktesar tigress becom- 
ing a man-eater (Corbett vii-viii). Here - only to serve as an example for many other 
cases - the changeover from animal to human flesh is claimed to be“accidental”. The ti- 
gress’ unfortunate encounter with a porcupine was followed by several accidental coin- 
cidences. While "she was lying up in a thick patch of grass, starving 
and licking her wounds, a woman selected this particular patch of 
grass to cut as fodder for her cattle The tigress killed her and without 
taking much notice of the body, limped off for a distance of over a mile to a little hol- 
low under a fallen tree. Here another accidental coincidence happened: A man came 
to chip firewood exactly off this fallen tree and the tigress, which was lying on the far 
side, killed him. Now, perhaps from the trickling blood out of the claw wounds of the 
victim, she got the idea that here was something that she could satisfy her hunger with. 
She ate a small portion from his back and a day after she killed her third victim delib- 
erately without provocation: The man-eater of Muktesar was born. In the growing ten- 
dency of the tigress to take notice of their victims as something she could possibly eat, 
Corbett observed something that is part of a phenomenon we now call: Habituation. 

Another cause for becoming a man-eater Corbett mentions for the two man-eating 
leopards of Kumaon, he had to deal with. One of them, the Panar leopard “followed on 
the heels of a very severe outbreak of cholera, while the other (Rudraprayag) followed 
the mysterious disease which swept through India in 1918 and was called 'war fever'” 
(Corbett xiii). During epidemic forms of diseases when cremation rites cannot be 
carried out properly these animals can acquire a taste for human flesh by scavenging 
human bodies.Though in “authors note” he restricts this possibility to leopards, in two 
other cases he refers to carrion eating by a tiger. While hunting the Thak tigress he 
found, that she had partly eaten a buffalo that had died from a snake bite. He concluded 
that “tigers as a rule are not carrion eaters but they do on occasions eat animals they 
themselves have not killed” (Corbett, 192). In the same chapter he mentions another 
case when he had killed and skinned a leopard, and coming back next day in search 
of his forgotten knife, he found that a tiger had eaten most of the carrion. Though in 
more modern times observations in some parts of India show, that scavenging can be 
quite normal for tigers too, what Corbett then already knew and acknowledges is the 
fact, that scavenging from human bodies is a serious cause for predators becoming 
man-eaters. 

Though Corbett probably was the keenest observer of Indian wildlife of his time, 
some of his theories of course need adjustment with reference to new observations and 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


161 


modern scientific knowledge. This doesn’t mean his observations were wrong. They 
were admirably accurate indeed and in many ways far ahead of his time, but naturally 
restricted to his experiences in his India and in his time, what was the district of Ku- 
maon in the beginning of the 19th century. Corbett cannot be blamed for not being 
able to compare data from tiger habitats all over the world and not having used radio 
collar methods as we do today. So before reviewing some of his theories and bringing 
them into a newer and wider context, we first have to acknowledge and to admire the 
insights he already had so many years ago. What he did was probably the first serious 
attempt to explain man-eating behaviour and his observations are valuable up to this 
day. Hunger, old age, wounds, scavenging of human bodies combined with accidental 
coincidence is not far away from a recent view of such a habit, as we will see. Even 
more up to date is his general perspective of the tiger as a “large hearted gentleman 
with boundless courage”(Corbett xii), which is way ahead of the attitude of many of 
his contemporaries who thought of the tiger nothing more than of a “blood-thirsty” 
and “cruel” animal that has to be destroyed by any means. But of course, as it has to 
be expected, more than half a century of research in tiger populations all over the 
world brings additional views and new perspectives. Besides, the “World of the tiger” 
has changed too. It is no more the largely intact habitat with plenty of game, where 
only the disabled creatures were facing hunger and desperation. Habitat destruction 
and fragmentation now can bring a quite normal tiger in similar desperate situations, 
so that priorities in the causes of man-eating might shift from “wounds and old age” 
in new directions. 

2. Why man is not the natural prey 

Corbett’s basic observation, that human beings are not the natural prey of tigers or 
leopards and only stress of circumstances can compel them to adopt such a diet alien 
to it, was definitely true in Corbett’s time and is in most cases still true today. Under 
normal conditions tigers like other big cats usually avoid people and seem to have a 
natural reluctance to prey upon them. There is obviously some kind inhibition on the 
side of the animal that prevents human beings from being attacked. But the question is: 
Was it always the case in human history and what are the reasons for this inhibition? 

When talking about man-eating, one first has to acknowledge that at least since 
the second half of the nineteenth century it is a comparatively rare phenomenon. 
This doesn’t deny the thread and the pressure man-eaters can inflict to the people of 
a certain region, but even in problem areas as are the Sundarbans, the Central Prov- 
inces or the Himalayan foothills, they still were astonishing rare facing the fact, that 
for a big cat a lone and unarmed human being is a much easier kill than any of its so 
called natural prey species. If for a moment we let aside the anthropocentric perspec- 
tive, it is indeed surprising, that people are not attacked and killed much more often. 
From this fact, some scientists very rightly state, that the basic question is not why 


162 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


individual animals become man-eaters, but why not all of them do regularly feed on 
human beings (Kerbis-Peterhans in Caputo, 2002:131). Tigers according to Stephen 
Mills, can and do kill almost anything they meet in the jungle, so “why, in fact, are so 
few tigers man-eaters” (Mills, 2004: 102). But it is an obvious fact that they aren’t and 
so I do not agree with Bruce D. Patterson, a colleague of Kerbis-Peterhans at Chicago 
Field Museum, who referring to lions considers “opportunity” as the primary cause of 
man-eating. For him all apex predators at the peak of the food pyramid can’t afford to 
be too choosy and have to be great opportunists and to rely on whatever acceptable 
prey species around (Patterson, 2004:63, 78). There is some truth in his argument 
and - as we will see later - opportunity is indeed part of the explanation. However, it 
should not be the main one as there are much more opportunities for big predators 
to prey on humans than they make use of. 

Let us first have a look at the past. Was fear of men always part of the big cat’s 
behaviour? Are they born with a natural fear of human beings or has it been learned 
maybe following the development of the deadly firearms? For General Burton this 
fear is more an acquired than an inherited characteristic. He concluded this from the 
observation, that in places where man has been hitherto unknown, his presence is 
no more productive of fear than any other living thing (Burton, 1931:35). This cor- 
responds with observations in established Indian National Parks, that wild animals 
including tigers are much more easily approached where they not have been hunted 
and tigers roam freely even in daytime hours. For Peter Boomgard who collected 
historical material from Indonesia, the tiger has learned to avoid people not more 
than 150 years ago. In earlier times (before 1870) he calls the animal an opportunis- 
tic predator “who made a 'rational' choice between easy and difficult, unarmed and 
armed, weak and strong” (Boomgaard, 2001:86). Tigers, so his conclusion, do learn and 
adapt their behaviour to changing circumstances and the tigresses transmit what they 
have learned to their offspring. Modern observers who talk about natural fear have, 
according to Boomgard, never known the tiger before he learned to avoid humans. 

There is no doubt, that tigers do learn and that growing hunting pressure in the 
midst of the nineteenth century has influenced their behaviour. Avoiding people 
became of growing importance for their survival and their genetic fitness and as a 
consequence, the inhibition to attack and prey on them has grown. But even if we 
assume, that tigers and other predators were more opportunistic in earlier times when 
confrontation with man induced less danger, I would assume that there has always 
been a certain amount of basic inhibition to attack as a result of the unorthodox and 
sometimes intimidating behaviour of human beings compared to other animals, even 
other primates. Yes, we are primates and big cats prey on primates, as KerbisPeterhans 
states (Caputo, 2002:131), but from a certain point in Evolution we were primates that 
behaved very different from other primates. The upright walk, the loud talk, unfamiliar 
clothes and diurnal activity, was not in common with other prey species. As a cooper- 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


163 


ating group even with primitive arms like stones, men were able to confront predators 
aggressively. So from a certain and perhaps rather early point in human evolution, 
it looks like we were no more “normal prey” but serious competitors. There was of 
course always opportunistic predation but presumably also a fear from a creature 
that was not like any other species. This view is supported by Charles McDougal who 
claims, that the “normal tiger exhibits a deep-rooted aversion to man, with whom he 
avoids contact.” And this is because “at some stage during the prehistorical interaction 
with humans, avoidance of bipedal man became an adaptive behavioural strategy” 
(McDougal 1987:435). 

An interesting scenario of possible prehistoric interactions between humans and 
predatory animals has been developed by Joseph Jordania of Melbourne University. 
For him, the human ancestors used very different strategies compared to many other 
animals. Instead of concealing their presence to avoid predators (crypsis), “they tried 
to intimidate them with their confident look, their behaviour and by making noise” 
(Jordania, 2011:97). For Jordania this ’’aposematic behaviour" is s similar to the sig- 
nals and colorations of animals like wasps or skunks that warn potential predators 
of the existence of defensive mechanisms and tell them better to stay away. Being an 
evolutionary musicologist he focuses also on the development of loud rhythmically 
singing, that in combination with threatening movements and throwing objects can 
work as a defence system against predators. It could have been used in scaring away 
other predators not only in self-defence but also aggressively while scavenging on their 
prey. Such an “Audio-Visual Intimidating Display” was strengthened by morphological 
changes like long legs (looking bigger), head hair (looking taller), cloths (intimidation 
through unusual appearance) and of course by the use of stones, that could be used as 
deadly weapons even on big predators in close combat situations (Jordania, 2011:96- 
114, 182-186). Though there is some speculation in his approach, as a whole it sounds 
very convincing and might well explain the basic “wall of inhibition” between humans 
and their co-predators that can be supposed to exist from the very beginning. During 
the writing of this article, a new book of Joseph Jordania has extended this approach 
and deepened the understanding of the connection of aposematic behaviour and hu- 
man evolution in close proximity to big predators (Jordania, 2014). 

Things have changed since, and what Boomgaard found for Indonesia is also true 
in other parts of the world. Growing hunting pressure from modern firearms strongly 
increased the tendency in the big cats to restrain from human beings because avoiding 
people now was essential for their survival. The tiger learned to live a secret live and 
the inhibition to attack one of this potential dangerous creatures was high. The tigress 
passed it to her cubs, that it was wiser to give man and even a small boy a wide berth. 
This was the situation in Corbett’s time when tiger hunting was popular sport. Under 
such conditions he even as “a small boy armed with a small muzzle-loading gun” could 
wander through the jungles knowing that a tiger, unless molested, would do him no 


164 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


harm. These were the days, when a man-eater usually was an individual that had been 
“compelled, through stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien 
to it”, as Corbett said. But things can change, new forms of conflict can arise, acquired 
fear can be reduced under specific conditions and traditional causes of man-eating 
have to be seen in a wider context. 

3. Hunger caused by no access to natural prey - Traditional causes of 

man-eating in a wider context 

Martin Booth, biographer of Corbett, adds a liner note to Corbetts view that 
man-eating in nine cases out of ten is the result of wounds, and in the tenth case 
of old age. Booth states that since Corbett wrote this, there has been established an 
eleventh case: “It is that of the tiger dispossessed of his natural environment either by 
human habitation or, in the case of successful tiger reserves, increasing numbers of 
tigers in an inadequate territorial area and which, forced to exist in a locality in which 
natural food is in very short supply (or totally absent) takes to killing domestic stock 
or humans” (Booth, 1990:253, Note 1). Similarly Billy Arjan Singh - who met Corbett 
when he was a boy and admired him deeply - writes, that in the early days in the last 
century, when Jim Corbett was active in Kumaon, “man-eating assumed what might 
now be called its traditional form: most tigers behaved normally and avoided humans, 
but the few that became man-eaters were forced to it - in Corbetts view - by the fact 
that they had been partially incapacitated by injuries or old age, or a combination of 
both” (Singh, 1984:140). Singh shares Corbett’s view, that man-eaters are made and 
not born, but emphasizes the importance of prey shortages as a deeper-lying cause. 
Prey scarcity could have forced half-starved individuals to seize porcupines only to get 
their paws and mouths stuck full of quills - wounds that later made them man-eaters. 

For Carrington-Turner, a forest officer who was in duty in Kumaon during and 
somewhat after Corbett’s time, the word “Hunger” is the summarization of all consid- 
ered reasons for man-eating. Hunger can be caused by wounds or old age, Corbett’s 
“classic” reasons. But this does not explain the fact that sometimes tigers in pretty 
normal condition turn to this habit. The underlying reason for Carrington-Turner is 
“Hunger” too, but not for any disability but simply for scarcity of prey in unfavorable 
terrain. This explains for him also the remarkable fact, that during his time (1912- 
1955) there were always man-eaters in Kumaon, in a country were the higher altitudes 
with their scarcity of game are bordering prime tiger habitat in the lowlands and the 
adjoining richly forested gentle slopes. Tigers driven out of the prime habitat by the 
expanding population find refuge in the hilly zone, where life is hard and normal 
food too scarce to sustain them (Carrington Turner, 1959:103-107). In many cases the 
outcasts will be the old and disabled, giving Corbett’s theory credits again, but also 
quite normal tigers can find themselves stranded in unsuitable terrain: Young ones in 
search of new territories, tigers that for any reason cannot stand the competition with 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


165 


rivals and individuals following the movements of the herds of domestic livestock to 
higher altitudes in spring and being left without food supply when the herds later in 
the year return to their respective villages in lower territories, meanwhile occupied 
by other tigers. 

Carrington-Turners observation is supported by modern scientists like Charles 
McDougal. In most cases of man-eating he sees a common factor in “the scarcity 
or difficulty in obtaining natural prey, either due to the disturbance of tiger habitats 
by humans or the dispersal by tigers into areas of peripheral habitat” (McDougal 
1987:443). Many outbreaks of man-eating in former peaceful areas can be attribut- 
ed to a sudden scarcity of natural prey caused by diseases or human encroachment 
with habitat loss and therefore loss of natural food by building activities and growing 
settlements. In a recent study, Philip J. Nyhus and Ronald Tilson in Sumatra found 
support of the hypothesis, “that the majority of tiger-human conflicts ... occurred in 
high and intermediate disturbance areas, and in edge' habitat, between forests and 
agricultural areas and plantations” (Nyhus & Tilson, 2010: 132). This growing prob- 
lem is not restricted to Sumatra. Nature reserves often are surrounded by much less 
favorable land, even in the so called buffer zones. Charles McDougal has shown for 
the Chitwan area that contrary to former times 78% of the fatalities occurred in the 
buffer zone and far fewer (22%) in the park itself. Besides the more numerous contacts 
between tigers and humans - a statistic factor we will discuss later-the problem is that 
of “a lower prey base in the buffer zone relative to the park, perhaps making a tiger 
more likely to search for alternative prey, especially a tigress with dependent young” 
(McDougal et al. 2004, 3). 

Charles McDougal was not the first to mention, that a tigress with cubs has an 
additional problem of feeding her offspring, what might explain the fact, that most 
of Corbett’s man-eaters were females. According to Richard Perry, this was not only 
the case in Kumaon but all over India (Perry, 1964:201). For General R.G. Burton the 
famous case of the notorious Mandali tigress, who hunted the Chakrata rage in the 
Dehra Dun district between 1876 and 1889, was the result of the difficulty experienced 
by a tigress with cubs combined with the scarcity of prey in unfavorable terrain. This 
tigress turned to man-eating in 1880 when she had three cubs. Her territory was a 
ridge nearly 3000 metres in elevation where natural prey was scarce and difficult to 
hunt (Burton, 1931:142-146). This is not so different from many of Corbett’s man-eat- 
ers in the foothills of Kumaon, who hunted in not much more favorable terrain as 
for example the Kala Agar ridge rises up to 8500 feet and Muktesar around 7500 feet. 

Hunger caused by prey scarcity is also a reasonable explanation for many out- 
breaks of man eating concerning African lions. One of the worst recorded cases was 
in the Njombe district of southern Tanzania were in the 1930’s dozens of lions killed 
about 1500 people over a period of 15 years. According to Peterhans and Gnoske this 
can be attributed to the establishment of a large game-free zone to prevent the spread 


166 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


of rinderpest to livestock, therefore providing prey scarceness for the lions (Kerbis-Pe- 
terhans & Gnoske, 2001:18). The destruction of their natural prey base by an epidemic 
of rinderpest in the 1890’s might also be one of the major causes for the Man-eaters 
of Tsavo, finally destroyed by Patterson. 

Accepting “extraordinary Hunger” as a basic cause for man-eating widens the per- 
spective and helps to integrate “classic man-eating”(wounds and old age) with cases of 
apparently undisabled creatures, which nevertheless suffered from hunger caused by 
unfavorable terrain or human introduced prey scarceness. But even such an extended 
view does not explain all cases. So, most of the man-eating tigers in the Sunderbans 
suffer neither from wounds or old age nor from extraordinary prey scarcity. The same 
is with the so called “sugarcane tigers” around Dudhwa national park. Also for the 
Njombe lions game scarcity might have been the trigger but does not explain the long 
run of the conflict. So the perspective is not wide enough yet and we still have to look 
for additional causes. 

4. Additional causes of man-eating 

4.1 Man-eating traditions - Do cubs of man-eaters become man-eaters them- 
selves? 

Corbett states quite generally, that the cubs of a man-eater do not become man-eat- 
ers themselves, simply because human beings are not the natural prey: “A cub”, to 
Corbett, “will eat whatever its mother provides, and I have even known of tiger cubs 
assisting their mother to kill human beings: but I do not know of a single instance 
of a cub, after it had left the protection of its parent, or after that parent had been 
killed, taking to killing human beings” (Corbett ix). I don’t doubt Corbett’s statement 
that cubs of man-eaters do not “automatically” become man-eaters, but I doubt the 
generalization of his words and I even feel some kind of doubt in Corbett himself. At 
the beginning of his hunt, the Chowgarh tigers were actually two: The mother and 
her full-grown cub. The latter was killed by Corbett in his first attempt and to solve 
his feelings of disappointment of having shot the “wrong” tiger, he called the animal 
at least a “potential man-eater”. Later he found, “that the old tigress had depended, to 
a very great extent, on her cub to kill the human beings she attacked” (Corbett 57). If 
the cub would have given up this diet after the death of her mother is a matter of guess, 
but I think the villagers who had no regrets about her killing doubted this for good 
reason. In the story of the Thak tigress Corbett’s first thought was, she had acquired the 
taste for human flesh by assisting to eat the victims of the Chuka tiger when they were 
together the previous mating season. Even if this proved to be incorrect later, it shows 
that at least at the time of hunting this tigress (his latest man-eater) Corbett did not at 
all exclude the possibility, that tigers do learn such a habit from each other. So we can 
agree that human flesh provided by the mother will not affect man-eating tendencies 
in her cubs. But things can be different when cubs actively join in the hunting or when 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


167 


adult animals are actively hunting and feeding together. Prey preferences are for no 
small amount learned by watching and assisting the mother or during other social 
interactions and so it can be assumed, that animals that have assisted in hunting or 
eating human beings have less inhibition to attack and to see them as a possible part 
of their natural prey. Not automatically, but with higher probability when opportunity 
arises. Despite of his generalization in his first book, Corbett at least in his later years 
did not seem to be reluctant to this view. 

The duration of conflicts can suggest the idea of some kind of heredity or tradition- 
and this indeed may be one of the causes of the age-old history of man-tiger conflict in 
the Sundarbans. Within the memory of men this place always had a bad reputation for 
man-eaters. According to Gertrud Neumann-Denzau and Helmut Denzau the earliest 
written document can be found in the letters of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in 1598 
and 1599 (Neumann-Denzau/Denzau, 2010, No 2, 4-7). R.G. Burton describes two in- 
cidents of Europeans who had fallen victims to tigers on Sagar Island, published in the 
Annual Register for 1787 and 1793 (Burton, 1931:124-127). The human-tiger conflict 
in the Sundarbans is still a recent one as everyone will realize when reading the many 
scary incidents reported by Kalyan Chakrabarti, former Field Director of Sundarbans 
Tiger Project. It is not easy to calculate the exact numbers of actual victims because 
many people enter the forest without permission and registration and thereforedon’t 
show up in the official statistics. To obtain real world numbers, Mr. and Mrs. Denzau 
made an extrapolation by comparing registered cases of the Forest Department with 
reports in local newspapers. As a result for the year 2004 they came to the astonishing 
high number of 175 victims alone for the Bangladeshi part of the Sundarbans, com- 
pared to only 15 officially recorded victims (Neumann-Denzau 8t Denzau 2010, No 
2, 4-7). The prevalence of man-eaters in certain localities over long periods can be a 
strong pointer to the possibility of traditions (Perry, 1964:202). Some might speculate 
also about scarcity of natural prey, but in the case of the Sundarbans this is ruled out 
by Chakrabarti, who insists in an abundance of pigs and deer as the main prey animals 
(Chakrabarti, 1992:17). We will later see that different factors might mix here into a 
fatal combination, but tradition by education is most likely one of them. Obviously 
tradition can be the neither the only nor the original reason because a behaviour first 
has to be established before it can be traded, but tradition can extend the conflict an- 
dit can be an important piece in the puzzle of the mysterious Sundarban man-eaters. 

For predators like lions that live in prides and have much more social interaction 
and cooperative education, the influence of tradition should be even stronger than 
in the more solitary living tiger or leopard, where the learning of prey preferences is 
generally restricted to the mother-cub relationship. With lions it has been observed, 
that prey preferences were passed along in prides and from one generation to another. 
As a result similar prides under similar conditions can develop and trade different 
preferences, as Chris Harvey and Peter Kat found out in Botswana (Frump, 2006:94). 


168 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


If for some reason a preference for man has developed, this can spread on whole prides 
and onto following generations likewise. Such cases are reported by Guggisberg from 
Uganda, Tanganyika and Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), where man-eating 
behaviour spread from individuals to prides and into whole populations over decades 
(Guggisberg, 1960:223-226). John Taylor, a former ivory hunter in Portuguese East 
Africa, recalls the fact that there are several districts that have been notorious for 
man-eating since Livingstone’s time and are still today. Lie could not give a satisfying 
explanation but was very sure, that no shortage of natural prey could be blamed for it 
(Taylor, 1959: 15). In Njombe in a remote region of South Tanganyika between 1932 
and 1947 at least three generations of lions killed more than 1000 people until they 
were stopped by George Rushby, who had no doubts, that “most of these lions were 
born and brought up to man-eating” (Kerbis-Peterhans & Gnoske, 2001:18). Peterhans 
and Gnoske suggest tradition also with the lions of Tsavo, as man-eating occurred at 
this place before Patterson arrived and continued after he had left the scene and hav- 
ing shot the two primary culprits (18-20). That such traditions do exist still today is 
shown in a study on an outbreak of man-eating in the Rufiji district in South Tanzania 
that went to its peak between 2002 and 2004, when at least 35 persons were killed in 
all probability by one individual male, called “Osama”. It was shot on 21th April 2004 
and according to a post mortem by Craig Packer was 3 1/2 years old, well fed and in 
good health, not previously wounded and with all adult teeth in place. It might have 
been introduced to man-eating by other members of the pride operating here since 
1991 (Baldus, 2004). 

4.2 Scavenging on human corpses - man eating as a result of ecological crises 

Protein is a valuable resource and many predators do not hesitate to get it the easy 
way. Not always they do the hunting by their own but take over kills from others. Even 
if it is not a fresh kill, many predators will make a profit out of it. If there are human 
corpses, for example provided by epidemic forms of diseases, then they can acquire 
a taste for human flesh by scavenging on them. Corbett describes this in details with 
the two man-eating leopards he had to deal with. One of them, the Panar leopard “fol- 
lowed on the heels of a very severe outbreak of cholera, while the other (Rudraprayag) 
followed the mysterious disease which swept through India in 1918 and was called 
'war fever'” (Corbett, xiii). Though tigers in general seem to be more discriminating 
than other predators, there have been many observations, that they readily take carrion 
when opportunity arrives. During a study of food habits by George B. Schaller in the 
year of 1964 in Kanha, several cattle and buffalo succumbed from disease or infection 
by unsuccessful tiger attacks. Schaller placed all such animals on a meadow and usually 
they were discovered and eaten by tigers within two or three days (Schaller, 1998: 280). 
Recent studies by Neumann-Denzau support these findings (Neumann-Denzau, 2006: 
1-9). So if a tiger comes across a dead human being as a result of diseases or disasters 


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169 


such as floods, cyclones or war, he possibly will feed on them, especially when natural 
prey is scarce. Observations suggest this can cause habituation to human flesh and 
subsequently a deliberate killing. There once was a local outbreak of man-eating in the 
Arakan region in Burma, where it always had been only sporadic and almost absent. 
It was during the Second World War in January 1942, when one hundred thousand 
Indians were evacuated from Burma through the wilderness of the Taungup pass and 
four thousands of them died in the mountains and bamboo jungles. Tigers fed upon 
their bodies and became man-eaters. As a consequence, fourteen West African troops, 
when the army reentered Burma along the same route in February 1946, were seized 
by them. (Perry, 1964:197) Similar events were reported during the Vietnamese war 
(Neuman-Denzau, 2006: 6). All these cases follow basically the same mechanism, 
described by Corbett in behalf of the man-eating leopards of Panar and Rudraprayag. 
The only thing we have to add is that in places and under conditions where such 
corpses are regularly provided, tigers can become man-eaters in a very similar way. 

Scavenging on dead human bodies, provided by slave trade, epidemics and buri- 
al practices that gave easy access to human corpses could have contributed to the 
man-eating habit of the Tsavo lions (Kerbis-Peterhans and Gnoske, 2001:9-12) and 
it can also be another part in the puzzle of the man-tiger conflict in the Sundarbans. 
The mangrove forest in the Gangetic delta is apart from predators like tigers, sharks 
or crocodiles a high risk zone for human life. There always have been cyclones and 
other natural disasters that cause a high number of human deaths’, many of them not 
properly buried but floating down the channels with easy access to tigers. Chakrabarti 
tells of a cyclone in the year of 1585 that has killed 200 thousand people and of an- 
other one in 1688 who killed 60 thousand on Sagar island (Chakrabarti, 1992:10). In 
addition to natural disasters in past and present times, Gertrud Neumann-Denzau 
mentions the tradition of a floating burial of snakebite victims in the surroundings of 
the Sundarbans. Bengal has the highest annual number of snakebite victims in India 
and a person who dies from a snake here is set adrift on a raft for the age-old belief 
that the person this way might come back to life. Stranded in the mud banks inside 
the forest these human carcasses are easily accessible for tigers and may be another 
factor for the frequency and the persistence of the man-eating problem in this region 
(Neumann-Denzau, 2006, 6-8). 

Joseph Jordania, evolutionary musicologist of Melbourne University and expert of 
Corbett, adds another interesting aspect with reference to the evolutionary history of 
man: For our human ancestors it was therefore important to make sure, that no human 
corpses were available for scavenging predators. They solved the problem by reclaim- 
ing dead bodies of victims so that a predator even if he had been successful in killing 
was not able to make profit out of it. For Jordania this can be seen as an “evolutionary 
strategy of predator control” to prevent them from becoming habitual man-eaters. 
Even cannibalism - besides its ritualistic character of acquiring the strength of the 


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eaten person - could serve as a similar strategy. Before mankind obtained the tools to 
dig the ground (and could afford to waist the protein), when a person died, cannibal- 
ism might have been the best option to prevent corpses from being eaten by predators. 
Reclaiming dead bodies and cannibalism resulted in an effective ' predator education ' 
and over millions of years “this was an important survival strategy that paid dividends 
in the attitude of predators towards our ancestors” (Jordania, 2011: 120). 

4.3 The “Sugarcane Tiger” and other forms of habituation to human presence 

Beer Singh, a Sikh farmer was ploughing his field with a harrow attached to his 
tractor. It was early morning in the Terai area of Uttar Padresh near a patch of sug- 
arcane when “he saw a tigress leisurely emerge out of it at the far end of the field. A 
pair of cubs trailed behind her. At the sight of the tractor the tigress stopped in her 
tracks, but the little furry balls took a fancy to the foreign object and turned playful. 
They were completely unafraid of its awkward sounds. Cantering gingerly, they came 
near the machine. At first they ran along with it and then began to bound around it. 

. . . They started jumping over the spinning harrow disc to have their thrills. While all 
this was going on, the mother arrived near the field. She sat down on the elevated edge 
and curiously watched the cubs performing the trick...” (Shukla, 1995: 149f, 147-186). 
The frightened farmer tried to stay calm and mumbling supplications continued to 
drive his tractor at uniform speed until after more than half an hour the tigress and the 
cubs left. Shukla claims, that this scene was not an isolated one and “such events keep 
occurring every now and then in the whole Terai area of Uttar Pradesh and lately it 
has acquired magnified proportions” At first sight one might smile about such a bizarre 
encounter and regret not having witnessed or even photographed the tigress and her 
playful cubs, nevertheless such events have a serious background in what according 
to Shukla can be called the phenomenon of the “Sugarcane tiger”. 

While the forests and grasslands of the Terai, once a traditional stronghold of 
the tiger population, succumbed heavily to ploughers and harvesters, tigers adapted 
themselves to the changing situation and managed to survive in the now extensive 
sugarcane crop, adjoining the forest almost without any buffer zone. Tigers seemed 
to be not really unhappy with sugarcane as it provides thick and shady cover and 
herbivores of all kind were attracted to these fields. Alas a very unpleasant situation of 
conflict was created as the chances of confrontation between tiger and man increased 
considerably. The growing familiarity with man and the experience of his limitations 
caused indifference to human activities and disregard to his presence. According to 
Shukla the basic fear of man, evolved over millions of years, has considerably diluted. 
Tigers entered cattle sheds, walked through villages in search for food, killed goats 
and dogs then cattle and then - in some cases - man became the next target. Shukla 
attributes the outbreak of man-eating in the Kheri district near Dudhwa National Park 
from 1976 to 1987 to these “Sugarcane tigers”, habituated to human presence. Con- 


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171 


sequently the hotspots of the conflict were not the jungles but the fringe area. There 
was no shortage of natural food for the tigers and apparently no traditional causes 
like wounds or old age to explain the man-eating. In most of the cases females were 
involved, perhaps for reasons already discussed. 

After the first outbreak in the early eightieth when five sugarcane tigresses were 
identified as man-eaters, the following years showed a conspicuous increase in the 
number of man-eating tigers in this area. One can only guess if this was the result of 
growing habituation or a custom taken up by the cubs from their mother. Within the 
span of a decade 120 persons had been killed by cane-dwelling tigers, but unofficial 
statistics more than double this number. In spite of such events, Shukla still keeps 
saying that “under normal circumstances, the tiger is a gentleman and a noble natured 
beast.” Like Corbett he adds: “No tiger strikes a man by choice. In the general course 
of things, tigers are extraordinarily retiring beasts; they display greater tolerance for 
human beings than the latter do for them. They are actually the pressing conditions 
that create the wicked characters” (Shukla, 1995: 178, 181). Though Corbett never 
used the word “wicked” concerning tigers, half a century before he came to very 
similar conclusions. Now the phenomenon of the sugarcane tiger is a new example of 
the “pressing conditions” or as Corbett would have had said “stress of circumstances 
beyond its control” that can compel a tiger “to adopt a diet alien to it”. 

An important factor that encourages the habituation of big predators to human 
presence is reduced or non-existing hunting pressure as it can be found in and around 
nature reserves. Wild animals will sooner or later learn their lesson that there is noth- 
ing more to fear from man. An interesting example that has led to an only partially 
documented but presumably extremely destructive man-eating in Kruger National 
park, South Africa, has been recorded by Robert R. Frump in “The man-eaters of 
Eden”. Frump studied the consequences of the migration of poor and desperate Mo- 
zambicans, who hoped to find work and a better life in South Africa. The weak and 
starving refugees while crossing Kruger came across lions that from 1926 onwards 
when the National Park was established and hunting has stopped had nothing more to 
fear from man. Generation of lions had grown up in the park that had no association 
of men with spears or guns and knew mankind as a mostly passive force. Being a first 
class tourist draw, the lions got comfortable with the presence of cars and men and 
were used to them. Even so, at first there were almost no problems as the Mozambicans 
who began the migration were tribesmen who for decades had travelled across the 
park to the mines and fields of South Africa. They went by day and knew how to deal 
with lions. But things changed with the demolition of political stability in Mozambique 
and political changes in South Africa. Immigration became illegal and the immigrants 
were no more “bush smart” people but weak and starving refugees from war, poverty 
and famine, forced to walk at night to escape detection by the rangers. However in 
the night they met lions who were most active then and had no fear of human beings 


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any more. There are no exact numbers of men killed and eaten by lions, but a very 
reasonable guess by Robert Frump is, that they exceed by far the numbers killed by the 
famous lions of Tsavo or even by the prides in Njombe which are said to have eaten up 
to 1500 people. Many lions of Kruger might not have been man-eaters in the classic 
sense that they actively sought out humans but simply took them opportunistically 
when the refugees walked into their turf and triggered their predatory behaviour. But 
the steady supply of a large number of weak and starving refugees could also have 
turned large populations of lions into true man-eaters (Frump, 2006:109). 

4.4 Cases of mistaken identity - humans resembling prey species 

There is a widespread theory about big white sharks that attacks on surfers might 
be cases of mistaken identity as - from the shark’s perspective - surfers paddling on 
their boards resemble their favorite prey, the sea lion. True or not, similar cases of 
mistaken identity are easily imagined with big cats too. Situations or silhouettes as- 
sumed by human beings that do resemble that of a four-legged prey species can indeed 
provoke an accidental and for the first time perhaps unintended attack which in the 
case of success can be followed by deliberate man-killing. Many fatal incidents with 
tigers have taken place when the victim was in a bent or squatting position while 
cutting grass or following the “call of nature.” For Richard Perry it is significant, that 
stooping women and children are often a man-eaters victim and he tells of several 
instances in Burma, when hunters had been stalked and seized by tigers when them- 
selves crawling after pig and deer (Perry, 1964:180). Such positions do resemble much 
more the silhouette of a four footed animal than of an upright human being. Kailash 
Sankhala, founder director of Project Tiger performed an interesting experiment in 
Dehli Zoo where he found, “that tigers start stalking as soon as they find a man in a 
bent position, but loose interest when he stands up” (Sankhala, 1993: 122). Similar 
cases are reported by Stephen Mills, who referring to a popular Indian National Park 
humorously assumed that “if every tourist who visited Bandhavgarh was expected to 
crawl through the bushes on all-fours, a lot would get eaten” (Mills, 2004: 112). Mills 
adds an unusual but interesting idea in assuming, that the tigers fear of an upright 
human being could lay more in the moment of the actual contact then in some inher- 
ited fear. A 3 feet tall tiger is about 9 feet long. When he encounters a 6 feet human 
being it might not unreasonable for him - being accustomed to four-footed animals 
- to assume, it would be 18 feet long, like an enormous deer of unknown kind. Even 
if the tiger nevertheless would think of leaping on his back, he would find that there 
is no back of the usual kind to leap upon. Mills guess is that a comparatively huge 
silhouette from the front which nearly disappears from the side could be very dis- 
concerting for the tiger therefore making him loose his confidence and withhold his 
attack if no additional trigger is given. In contrast, a squatting human being is half the 
size of a standing one and presents twice the spread of back (Mills, 2004: 102-106.). 


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173 


Resembling the size and silhouette of a medium-sized deer, the attack very well could 
follow a case of mistaken identity. 

Attacks on cyclists or people on horseback can be cases of mistaken identity too. 
Peter Byrne reports that tigers sometimes chase cyclists and tells of a frightening 
experience of a postman in North Bengal to whom, for his growing age, a bike was 
given. Soon while riding through the forest he was chased by a tiger, what never had 
happened while he was delivering letters afoot. The postman survived by stopping his 
bike, getting off and facing the tiger. Then, so the postman told, the tiger “saw that I 
was a man and not an animal and stopped and looked at me and then walked away” 
(Byrne, 2002: 292). Byrne assumes, that what a tiger sees when a man approaches on 
a bicycle is an entity that is quite different from the usual shape of man. In addition, 
the speed of this entity - much in excess of the normal walking pace of a man or an 
animal - might give the tiger the idea of someone trying to flee, therefore being re- 
garded as a quarry and as something to be chased and brought down (Byrne, 2002: 
291-294). Similar things have been reported with persons riding on horses. In 1902 
Harry Wolhuter a ranger at the place that later became Kruger National Park was 
alone on horseback looking for poachers. When he came across two lions, he spurred 
his horse but one of the lions sprang onto its back throwing Wolhuter to the ground. 
He survived by massive luck, cold blood, the help of his hunting knife and the inter- 
ference of his dog (Frump, 2006:31-37). In North America there are recent reports of 
mountain lions attacking people riding on horseback, what gives additional support 
to this theory (Deurbrouck & Miller, 2001: 190f.). 

Such observations suggest that it is not only the shape but also the behaviour- es- 
pecially the kind of behaviour that resembles a fleeing animal - that triggers aggressive 
reactions. It is widely accepted, that people who flee from a big cat are much more like- 
ly to be chased and killed. The first and best general advice to survive a close encounter 
is: Do not run! Running and fast movements trigger inherited predatory behaviour 
as everyone will know that has ever thrown a ball of wool in front of a domestic cat. 
An instinctive evolutionary defence strategy for human beings to overcome the urge 
to flee when meeting a predator is “Freezing of fear”. Robert Frump describes this 
reaction in a personal experience when hearing the roar of a lion even in a safe en- 
closure in Kruger: “The wave of sound reverberates first in my breastbone, then locks 
up some part of my brain and freezes me midstep like a lizard caught in the open on 
a flat rock. I am not frightened - just frozen. I have no clear idea how that happened” 
(Frump, 2006, prologue). He explained this instant freezing later as an “automatic 
antipredatory measure hardwired into our systems”. For Frump it is part of a defence 
mechanicm known as “crypsis” but in regard to Jordania’s theory mentioned in chapter 
two, it might also and maybe better work as “aposematic” behaviour, sending a strong 
signal to the predator that his opponent is not afraid, will stand its ground and may 
be a dangerous enemy. To trigger aggressive behaviour, it is not necessary to make a 


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BY MANFRED WALTL 


deliberate escape. Joggers who are not even aware of any danger are more likely to be 
attacked than people who walk at slower paces. This has been observed in the United 
States, where mountain lions take a strong interest in joggers running through the 
forest. Michael Bright has collected several cases where attacks and even killings have 
taken place. One of the fatal accidents was that of a woman jogger in April 1994 at 
Auburn Lakes Trail, a popular hiking trail in a recreational area in California (Bright, 
2000; 109; also: Deurbrouck & Miller, 2001: 1-23). 

Following the advice: 'Do not look and behave like a prey animal' one could add: 
'Do not behave like a sick or wounded animal', as predators tend to look at them 
as easy prey. Abnormal behaviour in humans as well as in prey species can give such 
signals to a potential predator and according to Peterhans and Gnoske this includes 
also deranged and inebriated human beings. To prove this, they report a man-eating 
outbreak in Zambia that began with the killing of the 'village idiot' and a similar one 
in Uganda near Queen Elizabeth National Park, where intoxicated persons stepping 
out of a bar late at night were taken by a lioness (Kerbis- Peterhans & Gnoske, 2001:20). 
Michael Bright recounts a similar incident near Lake Manyara National Park in Tanza- 
nia where a lion, accustomed to human presence by regular visits of a village’s rubbish 
dump, grabbed and ate a drunken man, staggering about in the road (Bright, 2000: 66). 

4.5 Unusual high aggression - the mystery of the Sundarban tigers 

In the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans according to Gertrud Neumann-Den- 
zau and Helmut Denzau, human-tiger conflicts are more frequent than in any other 
tiger area of the world (Neumann-Denzau & Denzau, 2010, No 3, 1-21). This said, 
man-eating patterns here don’t seem to follow traditional causes like wounds or old 
age and also prey scarcity cannot be blamed as a major cause, at least there are no 
reliable data for this. Besides commonly accepted causes as scavenging on human 
corpses and tradition, Hubert Hendrichs, a German biologist in the early 1970s was 
the first to notice, that there was a positive correlation between the degree of salinity 
in different forest ranges and the number of tiger attacks: The higher the salinity, the 
more attacks. From this it was assumed, that high degrees of salinity affect the liver and 
the kidney of the animals making them extraordinary aggressive (McDougal, 1987: 
443). There is no scientific prove for this theory, as the inner organs never had been 
investigated histologically by pathologists to confirm any affection. More so, although 
recent studies from Siddiqi and Choudhury confirmed Hendrichs data for the time 
of his research, they found no similar correlation in later years. Between 1975 and 
1983 for example casualties were highest in the medium salinity zone. Even if there 
is no solid evidence, Neumann-Denzau and Denzau won’t rule out the possibility of 
health problems caused by high salinity. They find it still possible that Sundarban tigers 
under such conditions could suffer from hypertonicity, causing increased activity and 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


175 


aggressiveness and suggest further investigations on this topic (Neumann. -Denzau & 
Denzau, 2010 No 3, 5). 

But there is another often overlooked and in my opinion much more convincing 
factor for the enhanced aggressiveness of tigers in the Sundarbans. Tigers use to mark 
their range either with permanent marks pulling their claws down the trunk of a tree 
or by scent marks up to 5 feet above the ground (Mills, 2004:79). In the environment 
of the Sundarbans with usually lacking appropriate trees and a tidal system that makes 
scent marking often ineffective, it can well be imagined that hereby reduced intra-spe- 
cific communication can lead to more overt and aggressive forms of confrontations 
between individual tigers. As far as I can see, only Charles McDougal refers to this 
possibility calling it “highly speculative” (McDougal 1987: 444). But I think that it is 
much less speculative at least than Hendrichs salinity theory to explain the aggressive- 
ness of tigers in this environment. This is supported by the observation, that unlike 
in most parts of India, man-eating tigers in the Sundarbans are mostly males (Kruuk, 
2002: 57), the sex, usually more involved in aggressive territorial conflicts. 

4.6. The “accidental changeover” - A statistical approach 

As doubtful as the correlation between salinity and human casualties might be, 
another correlation is much more obvious: The correlation between the number of 
attacks and the number of people entering specific areas of the Sundarbans. Referring 
to a study of Salter, Mr. and Mrs. Denzau found clear indications, that “the frequency 
of man-eating is highest in areas and at times of heaviest concentration of people, 
suggesting that the man killing and the frequency of man-tiger contacts are directly 
correlated” (Neumann-Denzau & Denzau, 2010 No 3, 5). The same is with the dis- 
tribution of casualties during the year. As it had to be expected the highest number 
of victims occurred in winter and in the month of honey collecting, the times of the 
most intensive use of the forest. 

As already observed by Corbett and illustrated with the example of the Muktesar 
tigress, the changeover from animal to human flesh is in most cases accidental and it 
is evident, that the probability of such accidental meetings depend on the numbers 
of tigers and the number of people entering tiger habitat. This is indeed a bit of an 
oversimplification, because there are other factors that also have an influence in the 
chance of an accidental meeting, for example the degree of habituation that can lead 
tigers to give human beings either a wide berth or feel rather comfortable in his 
presence. But just for the comparison, let us assume identical conditions and a given 
number of tigers and focus only on the statistical effect of human intrusion. It is not 
surprising: The more human intrusion, the more accidental human-predator inter- 
actions occur and the more chances are for a fatal accident and a perhaps following 
deliberate man-eating. To give an example: Let us assume that in a defined zone of a 
tiger habitat there are 1000 close encounters of tiger and man during one year. Let us 


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BY MANFRED WALTL 


further assume that 1 out of 100 accidental meetings results in a fatal “accident” and 
let us speculate even further, that 1 out of 10 unintended killings might teach the tiger 
that man can be easy prey and therefore leads him to deliberate man-eating, then one 
man-eater is the result of a given number - in our example one thousand - interactions. 
Of course these numbers are pure speculation and only a very rough guess. I would 
assume the real life numbers to be even less. But anyway, the obvious conclusion is 
that in any tiger habitat with high human intrusion there will be an accordingly higher 
numbers of man-eaters and human victims. Ten times more human intrusion - under 
otherwise identical conditions - will result in ten times more man-eaters and tiger 
victims. The statistical effect alone could perhaps be sufficient to explain the proverbial 
man-eating habits of the Sundarbans tigers. However, I don’t think that the explana- 
tion is so simple and would still call it a mix of different causes, but I just wanted to 
show, that the statistical effect concerning the probability of an “accidental meeting” 
is a really serious one. 

5. Man-eating as a "multi-causal phenomenon” within the bounds of 

Inhibition and Motivation 

5.1 Inhibition, Motivation and Statistics - a comprehensive and systematical 

view 

Was Corbett wrong, when he wrote about wounds and old age as the main caus- 
es for tigers turning to man-eating? He was not, at least under the conditions of his 
time. Regarding the additional factors he - at least as side effects - took in account 
like scarcity of natural prey, the difficulty a tigress faces in feeding their cubs, the ef- 
fects of scavenging on human corpses and the accidentalness of a behaviour change, 
he was not far away from a modern multi-causal perspective. This said, there is of 
course a wider understanding of the phenomenon today. We can look at the “stress of 
circumstances” more comprehensively than Corbett could in his time. But to put it in 
perspective: In a recent study concerning man-eating tigers and their victims in and 
around Chitwan National Park by Dr. Bhim Gurung, 18 of these tigers were physically 
examined in the past thirty years: 10 of them were impaired with wounds, 3 with old 
age and only 5 had no abnormalities (Mishra, 2010: 147). Things might be different in 
places with specific conditions like the Sunderbans, but the figures show, that even in 
our time Corbett’s “classic theory” can still explain more than two thirds of the cases. 

Man-eating in a recent perspective can be described as a multi-causal phenome- 
non, a view, shared by many experts. One of them is Charles McDougal who mentions 
a variety of causes, but does not bring them into a comprehensive and systematical 
view (McDougal, 1987). The same can be said of Julian Kerbis-Peterhans and Thomas 
P. Gnoske, who have discussed the circumstances contributing to the habits of the 
notorious “Man-eaters of Tsavo”. Besides the injury of a broken canine in the first (and 
probably the main) man-eater, they mention prey scarcity from an outbreak of rinder- 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


1 77 


pest, habitat factors and man-eating traditions resulting from scavenging corpses of 
dead slaves along old caravan routes. They rightly conclude, that “not a single cause 
will guarantee, that a lion will turn into a 'man-eater', but it is clear that a variety of 
causes will increase the likelihood” (Kerbis-Peterhans & Gnoske, 2001:35). Similarly 
Bruce D. Patterson considers man-eating amongst lions a complex behaviour pattern 
and calls it obvious, that no single hypothesis can explain all different scenarios (Pat- 
terson, 2004:97). The same can be said with tigers. There is no single explanation like 
wounds or old age, as there are many old or injured tigers that never will turn to man 
eating. If they would, as Ajran Singh ironically states, “there would be man-eaters 
everywhere, eking out their last years on a diet of human flesh” (Singh, 1984:140). 
So, though many scientists agree in man-eating as a multi-causal phenomenon, as far 
as I can see, no one has ever tried, to bring it into a systematical and comprehensive 
context. This I will try to do now. 

For this, I suggest to classify the causes for man-eating in two mayor categories 
that reflect antagonistic forces affecting the behaviour of a specific animal. The first 
category concerns the MOTIVATION to attack, the aggressiveness of a predator. In 
this category mainly falls “Hunger”, be it by wounds, old age or prey scarcity. But other 
causes too might influence the amount of aggressiveness, like salinity or more probably 
enhanced intraspecific conflicts as mentioned in the case of the Sunderban tigers. The 
second category is the INHIBITION to attack. There are factors that strengthen this 
inhibition like hunting pressure and special human habits (upright position, noisy 
groups, clothes, use of weapons etc.). Other factors like habituation, scavenging on hu- 
man corpses or learned traditions can lead to a decline of inhibition. And what might 
be seen as a third category but might be better described as beyond these categories is 
the STATISTICAL EFFECT, the opportunity that arises when the objects of a possible 
conflict come to meet each other. For a better understanding and a comprehensive 
view, have a look at the following graphic (Drawing: Claudia Miickstein): 

Looking at the graphic, you will see a tiger, a human being and a “wall” between 
them. Instead of a tiger you can imagine any other carnivore big enough to prey on 
humans. The vector on the side of the predator indicates the Motivation to attack 
(Vector M). The height of the separating wall symbolizes the Inhibition to attack 
(Vector I). There are factors, that will increase the height of the wall, and others, that 
will reduce it. Facing a high wall, a predator will need extraordinary motivation and 
aggression to “jump over,” if he is able to do so anyway. The human being on the other 
side will be quite safe under such conditions. But if for some reason the wall shrinks 
down, a medium or even low motivation can be sufficient. And of course there is 
the Statistical factor (Vector S) that reflects the chance of a meeting on a given time 
and at a given place. With these three factors in mind you can assess the likeliness of 
an attack and this is in my opinion the quintessence of man-eating as a multi causal 
phenomenon. Here is the explanation of the otherwise mysterious observation, that 


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BY MANFRED WALTL 


very often old, disabled and hungry tigers won’t become man-eaters (inhibition too 
high) while sometimes quite normal individuals turn to this notorious habit (condi- 
tions favor lower inhibition). When focusing on motivation, the amount of hunger 
and aggressiveness decides if a given inhibition can be overcome. Within these bounds 
of motivation and inhibition, under different conditions different causes prevail. Two 
contrasting examples shall illustrate this: 

a) High inhibition requiring extraordinary high motivation. This is the “Classical 
man-eater”, described by Corbett. High inhibition caused by the high hunting pressure 
of this time could only be overcome by very high motivation. This usually was induced 
by extraordinary hunger mostly caused by wounds or old age that made effective 
hunting difficult. Unfavorable terrain sometimes added to such difficulties. But even 
so, only in rare cases the motivation was high enough to overcome the high inhibition. 
Sometimes accidental habituation lowered the inhibition (Muktesar tigress). But tigers 
that did not suffer under life threatening situations because of the strong inhibition 
were usually quite harmless to humans. 

b) Low inhibition requiring only low to medium motivation. This seems to be 
the case with the Sundarban tigers, where the motivation might be called “medium”. 
No extraordinary “hunger” seems to enhance eit, but perhaps other factors like salin- 
ity or - more probably - increased intraspecific conflicts. But a medium motivation 
coincides here with a reduced inhibition because of man-eating traditions and scav- 
enging on human corpses, so this level of aggressiveness can sometimesbe sufficient 
to overcome the lowered “Wall”. Other examples show that in some cases even a low 
motivation not exceeding the totally normal level can be sufficient if the inhibition is 
accordingly small. The “sugarcane tigers” or the man-eating lions of Kruger may not 
have had any extraordinary motivation and aggression at all. They can be quite normal 
animals under this respect. But because of the effects of habituation, the inhibition to 
attack is extraordinary low here - in the case of the Kruger lions maybe near zero - so 
that man-eating can occur for rather small reason or even just if opportunity arises. 

5.2 Possible answers for specific questions in the perspective of Inhibition and 
Motivation 

5.2.1 Why tigers usually attack in daylight and leopards at nighttime? 

Man-eating as a phenomenon within the bounds of motivation and inhibition can 
throw light on some previously unanswered or overlooked questions, for example the 
observation, that tigers kill their human prey mostly during daytime and leopards at 
night. Corbett calls it a general rule to which he had seen no exceptions that “tigers 
are responsible for all kills that take place in daylight, and leopards are responsible 
for all kills that take place in the dark.” As both animals being semi-nocturnal forest 
dwellers and having much the same habits, it had to be expected, they would hunt 
at the same hours. That they do not do so, for Corbett “is due to the difference in 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


179 


courage of the two animals. When a tiger becomes a man-eater it loses all fear of 
human beings and, as human beings move about more freely in the day than they do 
at night, it is able to secure its victims during daylight hours and there is no necessity 
for it to visit their habitations at night. A leopard on the other hand, . . . never loses its 
fear of man; and, as it is unwilling to face up to human beings in daylight, it secures 
its victims when they are moving about at night, or by breaking into their houses at 
night.” (Corbett, 1946, ix-x). 

Corbett’s observation cannot be taken in an absolute sense. Tigers have on some 
occasions killed at night when people leave their houses to follow the “call of nature”. 
Locke tells of rubber tappers in Malaya that went out before daybreak and got eaten 
by tigers (Locke, 1993: 124). On the other side, leopards - though on very rare occa- 
sions - have killed in bright daylight. J.C. Daniel mentions for India at least one case 
with the Mulher Valley man-eater, killed by Osmaston (Daniel 200). For Africa, John 
Taylor expresses his opinion that the leopard contrary to the same animal in India “will 
kill just as readily by day as by night” (Taylor, 1959: 175). But as Taylors experience 
with man-eating leopards is more or less restricted to one animal, this must not be 
generalized too. At least for India Corbett’s observation as a general rule is true and 
this indeed should be expected according to differences in inhibition for both animals. 
To understand why, we have to divide our question into two separate questions: 

a) Why tigers (usually) kill human beings at daytime? 

It should be expected, that a man-eating tiger will kill a human being in any time 
of the day when opportunity arises, given he is sufficiently hungry. However opportu- 
nity arises usually during daytime hours, when humans go out to cultivate their land, 
guard the livestock, go for water or walk along forest paths to neighboring villages. All 
these activities provide the man-eater with rich opportunities to secure its victim. At 
night - especially when a man-eater is around - no one will leave his home without 
very good reason. Nevertheless, if one does for example to follow the “call of nature”, 
a lurking tiger probably won’t miss the chance. But even if a tiger, as Corbett said, has 
lost “all fear of human beings” or as we can say now, has a low inhibition to attack 
when coming across a lone person on a forest path (low Vector I), he apart from recent 
forms of habituation (sugarcane tiger), still has a strong inhibition to enter villages 
or huts (high Vector I), what would be necessary to secure human prey at night. I 
would predict that if humans would move around at night as freely as they do during 
daytime, at least as much and perhaps more of them would get eaten at night as are 
eaten by day. So it is the statistical factor (Vector S), that is used actively by the tiger in 
his favor by seeking human prey during daytime, having learned, that this is the time 
he has the best chance to meet them. No animal is able to hunt for 24 hours a day. It 
has to get some sleep and must make the decision to shift its activity either more in 
the daytime or in the night-time hours. It is not possible to choose both options at 
the same time. The “rational choice” for the animal will be the option which provides 


180 


the best chance to meet its prey under circumstances where the inhibition is smallest. 
For the tiger this is the daytime. 

b) Why leopards (usually) kill human beings at nighttime? 

Leopards are much more than tigers accustomed to live in close vicinity to human 
settlements. They are smaller, masters of hiding themselves in small patches of grass 
and forest and as a side effect, escape the pressure of the bigger predator by living close 
to human settlements. Because of constant habituation to human activity, the inhibi- 
tion to enter human dwellings at night is quite low (low Vector I) and a man-eating 
leopard therefore is able to follow his human prey to the place where it spends the 
night, right into small villages, sometimes even entering shags and huts. But when the 
leopard is so bold at night, why there are so few daytime killings? We have to consider, 
that the leopard is a much smaller animal compared to the tiger. More than its bigger 
cousin he depends on an unseen and unexpected attack that makes it impossible for 
the victim to defend himself. When the enemy is a tiger, for a lone and unarmed 
person it is almost always impossible to fight back and there is no significant risk for 
the aggressor of being injured, even in a frontal attack. For the much smaller leopard 
there is a considerable higher risk of getting hurt in an open attack, even if its victim 
is armed only with a stick or knife. 

So very “rationally”, the inhibition to attack during daylight for the leopard is 
higher than for the tiger (high vector I). As a rare exception, extraordinary big and 
confident male leopards might shift their behaviour to a certain extent in the direc- 
tion of the bigger predator. This could have been the case with the Ankwazi leopard, 
which according to Taylor sought his human prey as readily by day as by night. Taylor 
described it as a very big male with pugs nearly as big as a lioness - the biggest pugs 
he had ever seen in a leopard. A similar case is reported by South Indian Kenneth 
Anderson with the man-eating panther of the Yellagiri hills which he describes as a 
large male with a “heavy body, nearly equaling that of a tigress in dimension” (An- 
derson. 2000:23). While all other man-eating leopards mentioned by Anderson killed 
only at night or dusk, this very big male killed a mail-carrier who carried the post 
from Jalarpet railway station to the villages in the surrounding hills during the early 
hours of the day. But for normal seized individuals, the “rational” choice is, to kill 
their human prey at night.. 

5.2.2 Why man-eating tigers are more often females and leopards more often males? 

It has already been said that female tigers become man-eaters more often because 
of the additional difficulty of a tigress in feeding their offspring. Growing hunger in a 
female with cubs increases the motivation to attack (high Vector M). Concerning the 
inhibition (Vector I) differences in male and female tigers seem to be negligible, as an 
unarmed human being is no match for either sex. So with nearly constant inhibition, 
it is the motivation that rules and makes the difference. As a result female tigers be- 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


181 


come man-eaters more often. Although the female leopard faces the same difficulties 
in feeding their offspring, in contrast to the tiger it is the male leopard that becomes 
a man-eater more often. As size difference between male and female tigers being of 
no real importance when compared to the relative weakness of its human prey, for the 
smaller leopard it is another story. Here the inhibition to attack for the even smaller 
female is considerably higher, heading it mainly to smaller and weaker victims like 
children.With the leopard, the inhibition rules and makes the difference (high Vector 
I), in most cases overcompensating the effect of an increased motivation in the female. 

5.2.3 Why do seasonal changes exist concerning man-eating or its frequency? 

The attacks of the Ankwazi leopard occurred only during the rainy seasons when 
the county was covered by high buffalo grass allowing the animal to come close and 
unseen to his human prey. In the dry season, when the grass was burnt, it was his 
custom to clear out of the district and the killing stopped. If, as we have seen, the 
night reduces the inhibition by allowing an unseen attack, it would not be far-fetched 
to assume, that buffalo grass could cause a similar effect: Camouflage for an undetect- 
ed approach. This might be an explanation why man-eaters sometimes mysteriously 
disappear from the scenery and why this often seems to be connected with the dry 
and the wet season. This was also the case for the lions of Njombe and of the Rufiji 
district in Tanzania. For the Njombe prides, man-eating happened mainly during the 
wet season and stopped or was low level during the dry season when the annual fires 
went through (Baldus, 2004:25). The same was with the Rufiji man-eaters where the 
majority of cases occurred between November and January (short rains) and April 
and May (main rainy season). No deaths were reported in July and September and 
only few in August and October (Baldus, 2004:31). I don’t see anyone who has by now 
given a scientific explanation for this phenomenon but on the base of inhibition and 
motivation, I at least can give an assumption. 

As far as I can see, there are two factors that could induce seasonal changes in 
man-eating. The first is connected with Vector I, the inhibition to attack. When in 
the rainy season the grass is high, there is much more cover for the predator that can 
come close and unseen to places where man lives and goes after his daily work. This 
encourages habituation and enables unexpected attacks. As a result in the rainy season 
the amount of inhibition decreases (low vector I). In the dry season, when there is 
less cover, there is also less habituation and less opportunity for an unseen attack. As 
a result the inhibition increases (high vector I) and the man eating stops or declines. 
The second factor concerns Vector M, the motivation to attack. It can be imagined that 
in the dry season for the predator it is easier to hunt its natural prey, as the animals 
regularly have to visit waterholes where the carnivores can lay in wait. In the rainy 
season, there is water and cover everywhere, so the prey species are dispersed all over 
the plains and well hidden in cover. So at least under African conditions the rainy 


182 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


season could be the more difficult time for predators, enhancing hunger and aggressive 
motivation (high vector M) resulting in enhanced man-eating activity. 

Summary 

Why does a certain tiger or leopard adopt the habit of man-eating, while the vast 
majority of the same species, if not provoked, never will pose a threat to human beings? 
Corbett’s general view as outlined in “Man-eaters of Kumaon” is, that the cause is “in 
nine out of ten cases, wounds, and in the tenth case old age. . .’’But a closer look at his 
position reveals that the had a considerably wider view and was taking in account oth- 
er causes too, like scarcity of natural prey and scavenging on human bodies. Though 
Corbett had a remarkable deep insight as for his time, more than half a century of 
research and a changing world of the tiger has brought additional information and 
new perspectives. 

In sketching a contemporary picture of this phenomenon, I point out first, that 
the basic question is not why individual animals become man-eaters, but why not all 
of them do regularly feed on human beings because for a big cat a lone and unarmed 
human being is a much easier kill than any of its so called natural prey species. It is 
argued, that avoidance of men has become an adaptive behavioural strategy that was 
not only enhanced by the development of modern arms, but has its roots deep in the 
past of human evolution and is the result of the unorthodox and sometimes intimi- 
dating behaviour of human beings. 

Hereafter we discuss different theories concerning man-eating in big predators 
given in old hunting books and by modern time researchers. Man-eating, as a result, 
can be described as a “multi-causal-phenomenon” with often not only one cause re- 
sponsible. Up to this point it is more or less a summarization and evaluation of what 
you will find in literature about this topic. But as far as I can see, we will break new 
ground by accomplishing an instructive systematization in the causes of man-eating. 
The argument is here, that all causes can be subsumed under two major terms: Moti- 
vation and Inhibition who work in combination with the statistical factor that reflects 
the chance of meeting the possible victim. 

The “Motivation to attack”, the aggressiveness of a big predator often reflects, what 
can simply be called “hunger”. This can be caused by “wounds and old age” as well as 
by prey scarcity out of different reasons. Cases of non-hunger induced aggressiveness 
may exist too as discussed with the Sundarban tigers. But on the other side there is 
practically always also an “inhibition to attack”. The amount of this inhibition depends 
for example in a predator’s habituation to human presence, learned behaviour, experi- 
ences in scavenging on human corpses or the degree of hunting pressure. If an attack 
occurs depends on the relation of motivation and inhibition in combination with the 
statistical factor. With an appropriate high motivation it can occur even with high 
inhibition. When inhibition is low it can happen even with medium motivation. This 


‘THROUGH WOUNDS AND OLD AGE ’ 


183 


is the explanation that sometimes totally “normal” individuals without obvious “stress 
of circumstances” will turn to this habit. Describing man-eating as a “multi-causal 
phenomenon within the bounds of Inhibition and Motivation” can furthermore throw 
light on sometimes overlooked questions: Why tigers usually attack in daylight and 
leopards at nighttime? Why man-eating tigers are more often females while leopards 
are mostly males? And why do seasonal changes exist in the frequency of man-eating? 

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Boomgaard, Peter. Frontiers of fear - tigers and people in the Malay World, 1600-1950. New Haven & 
London: Yale University Press, 2001. 

Booth, Martin. Carpet Sahib. New Delhi:Oxford India Paperbacks, 1990. 

Bright, Michael. Man-Eaters. London: Robson Books, 2000. 

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185 


PART FOUR: CONTROVERSIES 


In this part of the book we discuss a few details of Corbett’s published stories which 
do not match with his own writings, or when there are clear contradictions between 
Corbett stories with other existing sources. We can group these contradictions into 
three main types: 

1. Contradictions between Corbett himself mentioning the same event differently in 
his two or more published stories from his six books; 

2. Contradictions between Corbett’s writings from his books and his private letters 
(primarily written to his sister Maggie); 

3. Contradictions between Corbett’s accounts of the events with the accounts of the 
same events by other witnesses. 

Various authors of the books on Corbett displayed various attitudes to such con- 
troversies. D.C. Kala and particularly Jerry Jaleel did not pay attention to such mo- 
ments. Peter Byrne discussed some of them. The biggest attention to such details was 
arguably devoted by Martin Booth in his biography, “Carpet Sahib.” Booth came to 
a conclusion that Corbett was deliberately changing the real events in order to make 
his stories more appealing to the reader. Big part of the Corbett readers, who had a 
firm belief in Corbett’s integrity, met Booth comments with disbelief and hostility. To 
others, those who were already critical to Corbett writings for various reasons, this 
was an open invitation to criticise Corbett. 

All five authors of this book share immense respect for Corbett, but at the same 
we are open to various interpretations of the existing controversies. So we will do our 
best to present every dubious case from various points of the view. It is highly possible 
that dedicated Corbett fans will be able to notice some other controversies in Corbett 
writings in the future. 

Not all of these controversies are equally well known to Corbett fans. Some of them 
had been already discussed in other Corbett related publications, but others will be 
raised and discussed for the first time by the authors of this book. 


186 


Killing of the Chowgarh Man-Eater 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

In this chapter we are going to discuss one of the most widely known and discussed 
events, the dramatic final scene of killing the man-eater of Chowgarh. This scene is 
probably central in the dispute between different opinions about Corbett as a hunter 
and about his integrity as a writer. 

Corbett killed the Chowgarh man-eater tigress on April 11th, 1930. This is one 
of the three precise killing dates that we know from Corbett books (other two are the 
killing of Rudraprayag leopard, and the Thak tigress). This date must have survived 
because while hunting the tigress, Corbett used the map of Kumaon to map the villages 
frequented by the tigress, and after killing her, Corbett put the place and the date of 
killing on the same map. 

There are three main sources of this dramatic showdown and our text mostly 
discusses the details that do not match in these three sources: 

Corbett’s story “Chowgarh Tigers” is the first source; 

Corbett’s letter to his sister Maggie, where Corbett describes how the elusive tigress 
was finally put to rest, is the second source; 

The original ‘Chowgarh tigers’ chapter published in Corbett’s self-published ‘Jun- 
gle stories’, 1935 is our third source. 

The first source, the story of Chowgarh tigers, was written in the first half of the 
1930s, as the story was included Corbett’s first, self-published book “Jungle Stories” 
(printed in 1935). The story became a part of the book “Man-Eaters of Kumaon.” The 
letter was written on the day of killing, on the April 11th, 1930, only couple of hours 
after the hunt. It is obvious that when writing his story several years later, Corbett 
did not use his letter to Maggie. Possibly he did not use the letter to Maggie because 
he was confident he remembered every detail of the hunt extremely well. Otherwise 
it is difficult to believe that Corbett did not remember writing such a letter. Anyway, 
these two texts were written in different times, and there are several big and small 
discrepancies if we compare them. 

Let us first of all listen what Corbett says in his published account of the event, 
and then have a look at his own description of the events from his own letter written 
on a fresher memory. We will pay a special attention to the contradicting information 
between these two sources. The following is an excerpt from the story “Chowgarh 
Tigers.” We hope that Corbett fans do not mind reading this famous excerpt from his 
book “Man-eaters of Kumaon.” Contradicting details are given in bold for the readers 
to see and compare easily: 

"I had gone out that day at 2 p.m. with the intention of tying up 
my three buffaloes at selected places along the forest road, when at 


KILLING OF THE CHOWGARH MAN-EATER 


187 


a point a mile from the bungalow, where the road crosses a ridge and 
goes from the north to the west face of the Kala Agar range, I came 
on a large party of men who had been out collecting firewood. In the 
party was an old man who, pointing down the hill to a thicket of young 
oak trees some five hundred yards from where we were standing, said 
it was in that thicket where the man-eater, a month previously, had 
killed his only son, a lad eighteen years of age. I had not heard the 
father's version of the killing of his son, so, while we sat on the 
edge of the road smoking, he told his story, pointing out the spot 
where the lad had been killed, and where all that was left of him had 
been found the following day. 

The old man blamed the twenty-five men who had been out collecting 
firewood on that day for the death of his son, saying, very bitterly, 
that they had run away and left him to be killed by the tiger. Some 
of the men sitting near me had been in that party of twenty-five and 
they hotly repudiated responsibility for the lad' s death, accusing 
him of having been responsible for the stampede by screaming out that 
he had heard the tiger growling and telling everyone to run for their 
lives. This did not satisfy the old man. He shook his head and said, 
"You are grown men and he was only a boy, and you ran away and left 
him to be killed". I was sorry for having asked the questions that 
had led to this heated discussion, and more to placate the old man 
than for any good it would do, I said I would tie up one of my buffa- 
loes near the spot where he said his son had been killed. So, handing 
two of the buffaloes over to the party to take back to the bungalow, 
I set off followed by two of my men leading the remaining buffalo. 

A footpath, taking off close to where we had been sitting, went 
down the hill to the valley below and zigzagged up the opposite pine- 
clad slope to join the forest road two miles further on. The path 
passed close to an open patch of ground which bordered the oak thick- 
et in which the lad had been killed. On this patch of ground, which 
was about thirty yards square, there was a solitary pine sapling. 
This I cut down. I tied the buffalo to the stump, set one man to cut- 
ting a supply of grass for it, and sent the other man, Madho Singh, 
who served in the Garhwalis during the Great War and is now serving 
in the United Provinces Civil Pioneer Force, up an oak tree with in- 
structions to strike a dry branch with the head of his axe and call at 
the top of his voice as hill people do when cutting leaves for their 
cattle. I then took up a position on a rock, about four feet high, 
on the lower edge of the open ground. Beyond the rock the hill fell 
steeply away to the valley below and was densely clothed with tree 
and scrub jungle. 

The man on the ground had made several trips with the grass he had 
cut, and Madho Singh on the tree was alternately shouting and sing- 
ing lustily, while I stood on the rock smoking, with the rifle in 


188 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


the hollow of my left arm, when, all at once, I became aware that the 
man-eater had arrived. Beckoning urgently to the man on the ground 
to come to me, I whistled to attract Madho Singh' s attention and sig- 
naled to him to remain quiet. The ground on three sides was compar- 
atively open. Madho Singh on the tree was to my left front, the man 
cutting grass had been in front of me, while the buffalo now showing 
signs of uneasiness was to my right front. In this area the tigress 
could not have approached without my seeing her; and as she had ap- 
proached, there was only one place where she could now be, and that 
was behind and immediately below me. 

When taking up my position I had noticed that the further side 
of the rock was steep and smooth, that it extended down the hill for 
eight or ten feet, and that the lower portion of it was masked by 
thick undergrowth and young pine saplings. It would have been a lit- 
tle difficult, but quite possible, for the tigress to have climbed 
the rock, and I relied for my safety on hearing her in the under- 
growth should she make the attempt . 

I have no doubt that the tigress, attracted, as I had intended she 
should be, by the noise Madho Singh was making, had come to the rock, 
and that it was while she was looking up at me and planning her next 
move that I had become aware of her presence. My change of front, 
coupled with the silence of the men, may have made her suspicious; 
anyway, after a lapse of a few minutes, I heard a dry twig snap a lit- 
tle way down the hill; thereafter the feeling of unease left me, and 
the tension relaxed. An opportunity lost; but there was still a very 
good chance of my getting a shot, for she would undoubtedly return 
before long, and when she found us gone would probably content her- 
self with killing the buffalo. There were still four or five hours of 
daylight, and by crossing the valley and going up the opposite slope 
I should be able to overlook the whole of the hillside on which the 
buffalo was tethered. The shot, if I did get one, would be a long one 
of from two to three hundred yards, but the .275 rifle I was carrying 
was accurate, and even if I only wounded the tigress I should have a 
blood trail to follow, which would be better than feeling about for 
her in hundreds of square miles of jungle, as I had been doing these 
many months . 

The men were a difficulty. To have sent them back to the bungalow 
alone would have been nothing short of murder, so of necessity I kept 
them with me . 

Tying the buffalo to the stump in such a manner as to make it im- 
possible for the tigress to carry it away, I left the open ground and 
rejoined the path to carry out the plan I have outlined, of trying to 
get a shot from the opposite hill. 

About a hundred yards along the path I came to a ravine. On the 
far side of this the path entered very heavy undergrowth, and as it 


KILLING OF THE CHOWGARH MAN-EATER 


189 


was inadvisable to go into thick cover with two men following me, I 
decided to take to the ravine, follow it down to its junction with 
the valley, work up the valley and pick up the path on the far side 
of the undergrowth. 

The ravine was about ten yards wide and four or five feet deep, 
and as I stepped down into it a nightjar fluttered off a rock on which 
I had put my hand. On looking at the spot from which the bird had ris- 
en, I saw two eggs. These eggs, straw-coloured, with rich brown mark- 
ings, were of a most unusual shape, one being long and very pointed, 
while the other was as round as a marble; and as my collection lacked 
nightjar eggs I decided to add this odd clutch to it. I had no re- 
ceptacle of any kind in which to carry the eggs, so cupping my left 
hand I placed the eggs in it and packed them round with a little moss. 
As I went down the ravine the banks became higher, and sixty yards 
from where I had entered it I came on a deep drop of some twelve to 
fourteen feet. The water that rushes down all these hill ravines in 
the rains had worn the rock as smooth as glass, and as it was too 
steep to offer a foothold I handed the rifle to the men and, sitting 
on the edge, proceeded to slide down. My feet had hardly touched 
the sandy bottom when the two men, with a flying leap, landed one on 
either side of me, and thrusting the rifle into my hand asked in a 
very agitated manner if I had heard the tiger. As a matter of fact I 
had heard nothing, possibly due to the scraping of my clothes on the 
rocks, and when questioned, the men said that what they had heard was 
a deep-throated growl from somewhere close at hand, but exactly from 
which direction the sound had come, they were unable to say. Tigers 
do not betray their presence by growing when looking for their din- 
ner and the only, and very unsatisfactory, explanation I can offer 
is that the tigress followed us after we left the open ground, and on 
seeing that we were going down the ravine had gone ahead and taken 
up a position where the ravine narrowed to half its width; and that 
when she was on the point of springing out on me, I had disappeared 
out of sight down the slide and she had involuntarily given vent to 
her disappointment with a low growl. Not a satisfactory reason, un- 
less one assumes without any reason that she had selected me for her 
dinner, and therefore had no interest in the two men. Where the three 
of us now stood in a bunch we had the smooth steep rock behind us, to 
our right a wall of rock slightly leaning over the ravine and fif- 
teen feet high, and to our left a tumbled bank of big rocks thirty or 
forty feet high. The sandy bed of the ravine, on which we were stand- 
ing, was roughly forty feet long and ten feet wide. At the lower end 
of this sandy bed a great pine tree had fallen across, damming the 
ravine, and the collection of the sand was due to this dam. The wall 
of overhanging rock came to an end twelve or fifteen feet from the 
fallen tree, and as I approached the end of the rock, my feet making 


190 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


no sound on the sand, I very fortunately noticed that the sandy bed 
continued round to the back of the rock. 

This rock about which I have said so much I can best describe as a 
giant school slate, two feet thick at its lower end, and standing up 
not quite perpendicularly on one of its long sides. 

As I stepped clear of the giant slate, I looked behind me over my 
right shoulder and looked straight into the tigress's face. 

I would like you to have a clear picture of the situation. 

The sandy bed behind the rock was quite flat. To the right of it 
was the smooth slate fifteen feet high and leaning slightly outwards, 
to the left of it was a scoured-out steep bank also some fifteen feet 
high overhung by a dense tangle of thorn bushes, while at the far end 
was a slick similar to, but a little higher than the one I had glis- 
saded down. The sandy bed, enclosed by these three natural walls, was 
about twenty feet long and half as wide, and lying on it, with her 
fore-paws stretched out and her hind legs well tucked under her, was 
the tigress. Her head, which was raised a few inches off her paws, 
was eight feet (measured later) from me, and on her face was a smile, 
similar to that one sees on the face of a dog welcoming his master 
home after a long absence. 

Two thoughts flashed through my mind, one, that it was up to me 
to make the first move, and the other, that the move would have to be 
made in such a manner as not to alarm the tigress or make her nervous. 

The rifle was in my right hand held diagonally across my chest, 
with the safety-catch off, and in order to get it to bear on the ti- 
gress the muzzle would have to be swung round three-quarters of a 
circle . 

The movement of swinging round the rifle, with one hand, was begun 
very slowly, and hardly perceptibly, and when a quarter of a circle 
had been made, the stock came in contact with my right side. It was 
now necessary to extend my arm, and as the stock cleared my side, the 
swing was very slowly continued. My arm was now at full stretch and 
the weight of the rifle was beginning to tell. Only a little further 
now for the muzzle to go, and the tigress who had not once taken her 
eyes off mine was still looking up at me, with the pleased expression 
still on her face. 

How long it took the rifle to make the three-quarter circle, I am 
not in a position to say. To me, looking into the tigress's eyes and 
unable therefore to follow the movement of the barrel, it appeared 
that my arm was paralyzed, and that the swing would never be complet- 
ed. However, the movement was completed at last, and as soon as the 
rifle was pointing at the tigress's body, I pressed the trigger. 

I heard the report, exaggerated in that restricted space, and felt 
the jar of the recoil, and but for these tangible proofs that the 
rifle had gone off, I might, for all the immediate result the shot 


KILLING OF THE CHOWGARH MAN-EATER 


191 


produced, have been in the grip of one of those awful nightmares in 
which triggers are vainly pulled of rifles that refuse to be dis- 
charged at the critical moment. 

For a perceptible fraction of time the tigress remained perfectly 
still, and then, very slowly, her head sank on to her outstretched 
paws, while at the same time a jet of blood issued from the bul- 
let-hole. The bullet had injured her spine and shattered the upper 
portion of her heart. 

The two men who were following a few yards behind me, and who were 
separated from the tigress by the thickness of the rock, came to a 
halt when they saw me stop and turn my head. They knew instinctive- 
ly that I had seen the tigress and judged from my behaviour that she 
was close at hand, and Madho Singh said afterwards that he wanted to 
call out and tell me to drop the eggs and get both hands on the rifle. 
When I had fired my shot and lowered the point of the rifle on to my 
toes, Madho Singh, at a sign, came forward to relieve me of it, for 
very suddenly my legs appeared to be unable to support me, so I made 
for the fallen tree and sat down. Even before looking at the pads of 
her feet I knew it was the Chowgarh tigress I had sent to the Happy 
Hunting Grounds, and that the shears that had assisted her to cut 
the threads of sixty-four human lives the people of the district put 
the number at twice that figure had, while the game was in her hands, 
turned, and cut the thread of her own life." 

I hope the inquisitive readers will not be bored to read the same fascinating hunt- 
ing scene one more times. This time the account is much shorter, with much less 
details, but most importantly, it was written on the day it happened, April 11th, 1930. 
The letter was written for Maggie, the lifelong companion and the only family member 
for the second half of Corbett’s life: 

"...at three o'clock this afternoon I set out to tie a katra [buffa- 
lo] up at Saryapani where I have been tying up since the 31st. On the 
way out I changed my mind and instead of going to Saryapani turned 
down the forest track with the intention of trying the katra up where 
the Chamoli boy was killed on the 25th February. Most of the jungle 
had been burnt but 1 came on a nice bit of green grass on which sev- 
eral sambhar were feeding. It looked as good a place as any so I made 
the men (I had three with me) collect a few bindles of oak trees, 
and before leaving the katra I made a man go up a tree growing at the 
edge of the Khud and call as they do here when out with cattle. I, in 
the meantime, stood on a projecting rock nearby and once I thought I 
heard a movement down below me but could not be sure. Anyway the men 
had heard nothing so we left the katra, to go up the zig zag track 
to Dharompani where the Vivians and I had sat one evening looking 
down to valley. After going a few yards I came to a deep nala. As it 
looked a likely place for tracks I climbed down into it and found the 
tracks of the man-eater. The tracks were old, possibly made by the 


192 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


tiger when going away after eating out Vivian's katra. Anyway I de- 
cided to go down the nala and look for tracks where it joined the main 
ravine. The going was bad over huge rocks and in one place I wanted 
a free hand. By the way, I have forgotten to mention that I picked 
up two nightjar's eggs close to where the katra was tied so I handed 
the rifle over to Madho Singh. I got down alright and as Madho Singh 
joined me he put the rifle into my hand, I had eggs in the other, and 
whispered that some animal had growled like a pig or a bear, he was 
not sure which. The nala was very narrow just here, and to our right 
and overhanging us was an enormous rock the top of which was about 8 
feet above our heads . As the lower end of the rock the bed of the nala 
was on a level with the banks . I tip toed forward without making a 
sound and as I cleared the rock, I looked over my right shoulder and 
- looked straight into the tiger's face. She flattered down her ears 
and barred her teeth and slipped forward but by then I had slipped 
the safety over and the bullet went through her heart. It was all 
over in a heart beat and the tiger was dead as a nail . I am glad I got 
her like this - no sitting up and no fuss. She was just what I expect- 
ed her to be - old and thin; cracked pads and teeth worn down to the 
gums, but her coat, on the whole, is not bad. I told Vivian last year 
that she was 8-4. I might be an inch out - not more. I did not break 
the eggs and the nightjar was glad to get them back. 

There are a few conflicting details in these two sources, as indicated in bold in 
both texts. These details are: 

1 . In story Corbett mentions starting his hunt at 2pm, in the letter - at 3pm; 

2. In story Corbett mentions two accompanying men, in the letter - three men; 

3. In story Corbett does not mention the presence of sambars, in the letter he 
does; 

4. In story Corbett does not mention seeing the old tracks of the man-eater, in 
the letter he does mention seeing them; 

5. In story the men whispered to Corbett that they heard a tiger growl, in the 
letter his men whispered him that they were not sure if the sound was from 
a pig or a bear; 

6. In story Corbett mentions his rifle’s safety catch was off when he saw the ti- 
gress, in the letter - he slipped the safety over after seeing the tigress; 

7. In story, after seeing the tigress, Corbett moved his rifle agonisingly slowly, 
in order not to alert the tigress, in the letter the tigress made a move but he 
beat her and it was “over in a heartbeat”; 

It is clear that that both of these sources cannot be true, and that there could be 
various reasons they do not coincide. There are several things we should take into 
account before we start discussing these discrepancies. 

Firstly: Corbett wrote the letter on the same day, only couple of hours later after 
killing the tigress, so the letter was written with a much fresher memory than the 


KILLING OF THE CHOWGARH MAN-EATER 


193 


story. The story was written some 3-5 years later (it appeared in the first self-published 
Corbett book, “Jungle Stories”. So basically, we need to trust the letter more than to 
the story, as the loss of memory during several years is quite probable. 

Secondly: Corbett wrote the letter to Maggie in order to let her to know that the 
hunt was over, how it went, and that he was safe. In the story, on the other hand, Cor- 
bett tried to give his readers as many details as he remembered. Therefore although the 
letter is written on a fresher memory, it does not contain many details that were not 
important for Corbett (or better to say - for Maggie) that moment. The story, although 
written much later, was written with the intention to provide as many details as pos- 
sible. Compare: this episode in the published story version contains 2585 words, and 
the same episode in the letter version contains only 548 words. So the story version 
is more than five times longer, with many more details. 

So, on one hand, we need to trust the letter as the primary source, but we should 
remember as well that Corbett might have omitted some secondary details in his 
letter. For example, meeting villagers, and the dispute between the father of the killed 
Chamoli boy with other villagers, is completely absent in the letter to Maggie. Corbett 
only mentions “On the way out I changed my mind and instead of going to Saryap- 
ani turned down the forest track with the intention of trying the katra up where the 
Chamoli boy was killed on the 25th February,” without mentioning the reason of 
changing his mind - talking to the villagers and the father of the Chamoli boy. 

Most of the differences mentioned above must be attributed to the gradual mem- 
ory failure and should be resolved in favour of the letter. There can be no other ex- 
planation, as these details (2pm instead of 3pm two men instead of three men etc.) 
do not make the story more exciting. Also, failure to mention of old tiger tracks in 
the story must be attributed to the memory failure, as the presence of the tiger tracks 
(even the old ones) would have given the reader some additional thrill. 

What Corbett’s men told him about the growl they heard is also different in these 
sources: tiger (in the story) vs. pig or the bear (in the letter). This contradiction most 
likely is the result of a combination of the memory failure and sub-conscious sub- 
limation: after forgetting to mention the presence of the old tiger tracks, Corbetts 
memory possibly compensated this miss by mentioning the “tiger growl” which is 
absent in the letter. 

The most important difference is the last moment of the hunt: how did Corbett 
turned hit rifle and fired after he saw the tigress ready to attack him from behind. 
This is something he would never forget, so we cannot explain this difference with a 
memory failure. 

According to the letter (which was written straight after the hunt), the tigress 
made the move (“slipped forward”), but he was faster and it was “over in a heartbeat.” 
According to the story, the tigress did not make any moves, and in order to bring his 


194 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


rifle in a position to fire at the tigress, Corbett had to turn of the rifle agonisingly 
slowly, in order not to alert the tigress. 

Which of these descriptions should be considered correct, and why Corbett’s de- 
scription of the ending of the episode are so different? 

Martin Booth believed that the true course of the events was given in the letter, 
and that Corbett dramatized the story in order to make it a better read. If we want 
to accept this point of view, we have one problem to overcome: was this physically 
possible? I mean was it possible that Corbett beat the tigress in speed in this situation? 

Let us remember, that when Corbett saw the tigress, according to both the letter 
and story, 

he was standing with his back to the tigress, 

his rifle was facing towards the totally wrong direction from the tigress, 

he had the nightjar eggs in his left hand, and finally, 

the tigress was only eight feet from Corbett (less than 2.5 metres). 

So Corbett was in the worst possible situation to shot the tigress. He was facing 
the other way, unlike the tigress that was facing him; Corbett was not ready to shoot, 
unlike the tigress that was well prepared to jump. Even if Corbetts both hands were 
free, the quick reaction and momentous shot at the tigress without grave consequences 
for Corbett would have been quite impossible. 

Let us listen to Peter Byrne, professional hunter from Nepal, one of the first re- 
searchers of Corbett legacy, who dedicated a book to Corbett hunting exploits. In 
his book Byrne specially analysed the Chowgarh tigress killing scene and discussed 
exactly this situation, namely, what would have happened if Corbett did not have eggs 
in his left hand. This is what Peter Byrne writes: “in this case he would almost certainly 
have been carrying the rifle in both hands, and would probably have attempted to 
swing around and draw down on the tigress the instant he saw her. My guess is that 
he would have got a bullet into her because Corbett was very quick, and a first class 
shot. But the sudden action would almost certainly have provoked an instantaneous 
reaction on the part of the tigress, which in this case would have been an attack. And 
an attack from a big cat, at close range, a cat that is fully prepared, with its back legs 
tucked under it, tensed, ready to hurl itself forward, would not have been stopped by a 
.275 bullet. Squarely shot, even in mid air, the cat might have been mortally wounded. 
But the impetus of its spring, plus the fact that it had Corbett squarely on its path, 
with its eyes targeted on him, plus the minimal distance involved - eight feet - would 
have had the cat on top of him, biting, tearing, even in its dying throes. And even a 
single bite from a big cat can well be fatal, certainly, in the case of man, if it is in the 
head and neck area of its victim.” 

So in the view of a professional hunter, even if Corbett had both of his hands 
free, the instantaneous action on his side, mentioned in Corbett’s letter to Maggie, 
would not have been possible without grave consequences for Corbett. But as we 


KILLING OF THE CHOWGARH MAN-EATER 


195 


know, Corbett did not even have both hands free, so the “instant turn and quick fire” 
scenario becomes truly impossible. By the way, Corbett himself mentions (as a positive 
factor) that the eggs in his left hand forced him to act very slowly and thus saved him. 

What about the scene described in the story? Is it possible to come to the conclu- 
sion that the true course of event of the final scene of hunting are faithfully described 
in the story? I will now try to explain the possible psychological factors behind the 
human-tiger behaviour in such a close encounter. 

Psychology of close encounter 

When humans, like many other living beings, are suddenly finding themselves in a 
deadly situation, they as a rule resort to instinctive actions. The stimulus of danger is 
too strong to allow a well though and logical behaviour. So what our powerful instincts 
tell us? There is a famous “flight or fight instinct” for most of the living organisms. 
According to the story, Corbett did not resort to any of them although the danger was 
more than deadly. Was this possible? Yes, even very likely. Scholars found that fight 
and flight are not the only instinctive responses to such deadly situations in humans 
and some animals. There is a third extremely important but often neglected action 
- freezing. Therefore, the instinctive response to critical situation actually has three 
versions: “fight, flight or freeze.” And it is a well known fact that in the most critical 
situations, like sudden attack or the imminent strong violence, humans often freeze. 
Despite the popular misconception that freezing in a critical situation is a deadly 
mistake and will surely lead to the death, freezing is actually a life-saving instinctive 
response, particularly when a human is facing a predator. 

Why is this so? Animal psychologists unanimously declare that if you suddenly 
find yourself facing a deadly predator, under no circumstances you should try to run. 
Long evolutionary interaction between our ancestors and the predators taught our 
ancestors that predators attack as soon as you start running for your life. There is a 
fascinating book, written by a professional safari guide from Botswana Peter Allison. 
The title of his book tells it all: “Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana 
Safari Guide.” The idea of the book and title is very simple: only food runs! So your 
best option for survival if you meet a big cat or other dangerous predator is to stay 
still and not to try to run away. 

Of course, tigers, lions and other stealth predators attack not only the running 
prey. As a matter of fact, they much prefer to attack their prey while the prey is un- 
aware of the presence of the predator. But if the prey sees the predator, predator either 
abandons the hunt, or stops and expects the prey to behave like a prey - to run. The 
situation at the giant slate was a classic example of the psychological duel between a 
human and a big cat. 

The tigress saw Corbett first, and most likely if Corbett did not have a glance above 
his right shoulder, in a second or two the tigress would have made a jump, leaving 


196 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


Corbett no chance or time to respond. But Corbett looked back, and the imminent 
attack was arrested. As her cover was blown away, the tigress most likely anticipated 
the human to start running away, but Corbett froze, and he quickly realized that the 
first move was up to him. This thought was absolutely correct. According to Elizabeth 
Marshall Thomas (The Old Way, 2006), Bushmen, living in close interaction with the 
lions, taught her and her family members that if they meet a lion in close proximity 
(and Elizabeth together with her brother had such a close meeting with a male lion), 
they should not to run, but to stop for a while and then start walking away in an 
oblique line. In this situation, facing the tigress from less than two and half metres, 
any sharp movement would have been interpreted either as an attack, or the desire 
to run away, both inevitably triggering the immediate tiger response. Peter Byrne is 
very clear about the chances of a hunter trying to stop a tiger from such a short range 
with a not so heavy rifle. So the very slow movement, without any rush, and without 
taking eyes from the eyes of the tiger, was probably the only correct way to behave. 
Hard to imagine what was going on in Corbetts head while he was turning his rifle 
for 280 degrees with one hand, but we know that after he fired the shot, he was unable 
to remain on his feet. 

Therefore, I maintain, that the behaviour of both Corbett and the tigress in this ex- 
tremely tense episode, as it is described in the story, is absolutely natural. So although 
the scene might seem to readers far-fetched and over-dramatised, the behaviour of a 
human and a predator is quite natural. 

By the way, Corbett, a first-class naturalist with a keen eye, noticed the instinctive 
freezing behaviour of humans during the danger earlier in his life. In a story, written 
about his trusted hunting friend Robin, Corbett specially mentioned this feature of 
human behaviour. When responding to the all-out attack of a wounded leopard, Robin 
run away for his life, but Corbett remained frozen where he was, and later Corbett 
remarked: 

"Our reactions to the sudden and quite unexpected danger that had 
confronted us were typical of how a canine and a human being act in 
an emergency... in Robin's case it had impelled him to seek safety in 
silent and rapid retreat; whereas in my case it had the effect of 
gluing my feet to the ground and making retreat rapid or otherwise 
impossible . " 

So if we compare these two accounts, describing the details of the dramatic en- 
counter with the Chowgarh tigress, one from the written story, and another from the 
letter, we must come to a conclusion, that the events described in the letter, implying 
turning around in a split second and killing a man eating tigress which was ready to 
jump, without provoking her to jump, is virtually impossible. On the other hand, the 
events described in the story are much more realistic, both from physical as well as 
psychological point of view in reference of human and big cat behaviour. 


KILLING OF THE CHOWGARH MAN-EATER 


197 


If we accept that Corbett told the truth in the story, we are automatically coming 
to the conclusion that he did not tell his sister the true course of event of hunting on 
the day when it happened. This is a serious problem. We need to find a good reason 
why did Corbett tell his sister something different, instead of describing thing as they 
were in reality? Loss of memory is out of question, as Corbett was writing his letter to 
Maggie just a couple of hours later after the hunt, possibly even still feeling the inner 
tremor from the near-fatal encounter. So what was the reason for Corbett to change 
the details of the final encounter with the tigress? 

Is it possible to propose that Corbett wanted to impress his sister, and invented a 
story that from this impossible situation, with his back to the tiger, and with only one 
free hand, he managed to beat the tiger in speed, instead of admitting candidly that 
he was on a mercy of a man-eater? Readers might agree this explanation is extremely 
unlikely. 

But there is another and much simpler explanation why Corbett did not tell the full 
truth to his sister. When a family member loves another family member very strongly, 
the loving family member is often consciously spared of any negative or scary events 
that happened to the loved family member. Corbett and Maggie were the two most 
dedicated people for each other. As the older and caring sister, Maggie nursed Jim on 
several occasions after doctors were losing hope for his revival. None of them married 
and they both were completely dedicated to each other. From Corbett letters we know 
that Maggie was sending her brother cakes while Jim was after man-eaters. We also 
know that Maggie sometimes tried to stop her brother from going after man-eaters. 
We know it was Maggie who made Corbett to give a word that his hunt for the Thak 
tigress would be his last hunt for a man-eater. And it was Maggie who asked her 
brother to be back by December 1st 1938 whatever the result of the hunt was. And 
we certainly know how diligent Corbett was in keeping his word to Maggie from the 
Thak man-eater story. Loving someone and knowing that your loved family member 
is hunting a man eating tiger, is already a nerve-wrecking experience. Therefore, it 
seems very natural to think that Corbett wanted to spare his sister from realising how 
close her brother came to his own death on April 11th 1930. Therefore, I suggest that 
when writing a letter, Corbett consciously restrained himself from mentioning the 
scariest detail of the hunt. And the scariest detail of this hunt was that Corbett’s life 
was entirely in the mercy of the dreaded man-eater. 

We do not know for how long did this situation actually last, as Corbett was not in 
a position to tell accurately the time elapsed. For him the tense moment was definitely 
stretched in time, as it is for many people in a grave danger. But any stretch of time, 
from a few seconds to possibly a minute or two, while Corbett was slowly turning 
his riffle, he was balancing on the edge of his death. For Corbett this was the scariest 
fact of this dramatic hunting event, and to me it is natural that he did not reveal this 
detail to his caring sister. It is also symptomatic that Corbett did not mention in the 


198 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


letter that after shooting the tigress, he found his legs were failing him. Instead, his 
words are downplaying the danger he underwent, and describe how happy he was that 
he got the tigress so easily: “I am glad I got her like this - no sitting up and no fuss.” 

According to our current medical knowledge, such extremely stressful moments 
leave unwanted legacy on the heart. If this is true, Corbetts heart must have been 
definitely affected with such stressful events. And who know whether Corbett’s death 
in 1955 from a massive heart attack was partly corroborated by the accumulation of 
the negative effects of the most stressful events from his hunting career. Killing of the 
Chowgarh tigress was possibly one of the most stressful events of Corbett’s long career 
of a man-eating tiger and leopard hunting. 

The important methodological lesson of this story for Corbett researchers is that 
when discussing controversies in Corbett writings, apart from such a factor as grad- 
ual memory corruption, we should also take into account the psychological factor. 
More precisely, we should treat Corbett’s letters written to Maggie with a great 
care, as in his letters to Maggie Corbett could have omitted or changed the scariest 
details of the hunt in order to downplay the danger he was experiencing. 

Martin Booth was very sceptical about other elements of the story as well. For 
example, the possibility that Corbett had nightjar eggs in his left hand sounded to him 
totally unbelievable. “This really is a good deal to believe,” wrote Booth, “To accept the 
tale one has to believe that Jim was stupid enough to collect the eggs (why not to get 
them later?) when stalking a man-eater he knew to be in the vicinity. . .” It is after this 
accusation that Booth cites Corbett’s letter to Maggie, in order prove that Corbett does 
have discrepancies between his story and his letter to Maggie. Unfortunately, Booth 
fails to acknowledge, that the fact of holding eggs (and even returning the eggs back 
to the nest) are clearly present both in the story and in the letter. 

To understand why Corbett picked up the unusually shaped eggs, we should re- 
member that when he was going down the nala, he was not expecting the man-eater 
to be that close. Yes, there were pugmarks, as this is mentioned in the letter, but they 
were old. Yes, his men whispered that they possible heard the growl of a pig or bear, 
but he knew tigers do not betray their position when they are stalking someone. On 
the other hand, let us remember that Corbett was a born naturalist, and for him seeing 
a couple of uniquely shaped nightjar eggs was quite a thrilling experience. And above 
all, we should remember when Corbett was going down the nala, his goal was to go up 
the other side of the deep ravine and from the distance of about 200-300 metres watch 
the tethered buffalo. Corbett would have definitely followed Martin Booth advice and 
collected the uniquely shaped eggs later if he could have known that his meeting with 
the man-eater was only seconds away. Let us remember that Corbett was following 
the Chowgarh tigress for many months, and he had no idea the dramatic showdown 
was so close. 


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199 


In a way, the climactic scenes of killing of the Chowgarh and Thak man-eaters 
are complete opposites to each other: in Thak story the climax is gradually building 
up for the long and messy half an hour, after Corbett hears the tigresses call and 
starts calling her up. This build up consists of Corbett and his men running down in 
a desperate search for a suitable place to meet the tigress, gradually approaching and 
calling tigress, fading light, Corbett sitting in an awkward position on a narrow ledge, 
and terrorised people and goats sitting under Corbett... All these elements create an 
unforgettable dynamic climax. On the other hand, in the Chowgarh story the climax 
hits the reader in an instant, with Corbett’s words “I looked around and looked straight 
into Tigresses eyes...” Seeing the tigress was clearly unexpected for Corbett, and that 
was the chief reason he was so badly prepared for the encounter, with eggs in his left 
hand, rifle across the chest, and with his back to the tigress. 

We need also to discuss briefly the difference between the story and the letter about 
the safety catch of the .275 rifle. In story Corbett clearly mentions that the safety catch 
was off, and in the letter to Maggie he mentions that he “slipped the safety over.” So 
which is correct? 

As a great Corbett fan Noel Maxx, who owns a replica of Corbett’s .275 rifle 
explained to me, Rigby Mauser .275 has three positions of the safety catch: (1) on, 
(2) intermediate, and (3) off. Two of them block the fire, and only the “off” position 
allows firing the rifle. Most importantly, if you are holding this rifle with one hand, 
it is impossible to put the rifle into the firing position (“off”) from the closed (“on”) 
position, but it is possible to change the safety catch from the intermediate position to 
the firing position using the thumb of the right hand. So it is clear that when Corbett 
looked in the eyes of the tigress, the rifle was either in full “off” position (ready to 
fire), or in intermediate position (where Corbett could slip the safety off) using his 
only free hand. We do not know exactly if the safety catch position was “intermediate” 
or “off” for sure, but we know this could not be “on” position. 

Even more interesting is why the rifle was not fully “on” position (not allowing 
shooting). Hunters open the safety catch only when they know the situation is very 
tense and that they might not have an extra second to change the safety catch from 
“on” to “off.” Let us remember, Corbett and his men needed to go to the other side of 
the gorge. Corbett was so sure that there was no urgent need to fire in the next few 
minutes that he even picked up the eggs, and a minute later he gave his rifle to one of 
his men. There is no way to think that Corbett was expecting to see the tigress is a few 
seconds and he was behaving so irresponsibly. So Corbett was not expecting the need 
of urgent fire in the next few minutes at least. This brings us to the conclusion that 
when they were walking down the ravine, and when Corbett glided down the smooth 
rock face, the rifle was still in “on” position. But in the moment when Corbett’s men 
gave the rifle to him, the rifle was clearly in firing state. What has happened in these 
couple of seconds and who could change the safety catch position? 


200 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


As we know, while Corbett was gliding down, his men heard a growl (tiger? pig? 
Bear?), so they know the danger could be very close. Corbett did not hear the growl 
probably because of the noise his cloth was making while he was gliding down (he 
mentions this himself). So before his men gave Corbett the rifle back, they most likely 
put the safety catch in “off” (or “intermediary”) position. They definitely knew Corbett 
had eggs in his left hand (that’s why he gave them the rifle in the first place), and they 
correctly assumed he might need the rifle quite soon. 

Why they did not take eggs from him? Most likely Corbett did not believe the 
growl could come from the tiger (he writes that tigers do not betray their presence 
when hunting), so they behaved according to their understanding of the danger: his 
men knew tiger could be close and put the safety off before giving the rifle to Corbett. 
On the other hand Corbett did not think giving the eggs to them as he did not believe 
the level of alert was so high. 

So the sequence of events with the safety catch was most likely the following: 

(1) When Corbett glided down the smooth rock the safety catch was on (otherwise 
he would not have given the rifle to anyone, creating a potential disastrous 
situation); 

(2) The couple of seconds while Corbett was gliding down, something important 
has happened - his men heard growling sound and they knew the tiger could 
be very close; 

(3) So they gave Corbett the rifle with already switched safety catch on firing 
position, and told him his they heard tiger growl; 

(4) Corbett took the rifle with safety catch off (his good luck!), but did not think 
of giving his men the eggs to free his hand, as he did not believe the tiger 
could be so close. 

(5) the fact that in the critical moment Corbett had the rifle diagonally across his 
chest also tells us that he did not believe the danger was so imminent: if he 
knew the tigress was so close, instead of having the rifle across his chest (which 
is the “walking with gun” position), he would have had the rifle pointing for- 
ward (“expecting the danger” position). 

Martin Booth questioned also the possibility of Corbett managing to turn his rifle 
very slowly with his right hand alone. He even did an experiment to check if this was 
physically possible, and reported that he himself was not able to do this movement 
(despite him being a trained sportsman with strong hands). We must give a credit 
to him though when he reports that one of his hunting friends was able to repeat 
Corbett’s movements. 

Overall, it is very strange that Booth did not question how manageable was for 
Corbett to kill the tigress as he wrote in his letter to Maggie - from standing with his 
back to the tigress, turning and shooting, beating the tigress in speed, with only one 
free hand, and even switching the safety catch while he was doing his impossible feat. 


KILLING OF THE CHOWGARH MAN-EATER 


201 


So in discussing the Chowgarh killing scene, we have to agree that Martin Booth was 
very inconsistent in his beliefs and doubts. 

To conclude this discussion, I would like to say that yes, there are clear contradic- 
tions between Corbett’s description of the hunting the Chowgarh tigress in his book 
and his letter to his sister. Most of these contradictions were the result of a memory 
failure, and the information provided in a letter should be considered correct. But in 
his description of the most dramatic moment of the hunt, when he was facing the 
tigress, Corbett’s written account of the hunt in a story is a more precise description 
of real events than his letter to Maggie. This discrepancy most likely arose because 
Corbett deliberately changed the sequence of events in his letter in order to conceal 
from his sister how close he came to his death on that day. Here we can also add that 
the third source of the event (story from the 1935 self-published “Jungle Stories”) is 
confirming all the details discussed above, including the slow movement of the rifle 
and the safety catch being off. 

How long the slow turning of the rifle took? Corbett did not know how much time 
did the turning of the rifle took, but for sure, in such situations this would seem like 
an eternity. People caught in critical situations (for example, in earthquake or a road 
accident) often report that time slows down and each second seemed like minutes. 
And as this moment is so nerve wrecking as it is for millions of the readers of Corbett 
books, would be even more for Jim’s sister, for whom Jim was the only person she 
lived for. Therefore, Jim’s desire to spare her from this experience is quite natural to 
understand. 

I do not know what you think of my argument, dear reader, but even from the 
factual point of view, is much more realistic to believe that Corbett did not describe his 
nerve-wrecking slow turning in a letter to his sister in order to spare her from negative 
emotions, than to believe that he did a totally unbelievable split second turn with a 
rifle in one hand and eggs in the other hand, and shot tigress without even dropping 
the eggs. It would be also extremely difficult to believe that Corbett concealed doing 
this unbelievable feat in his book in order to make his reading more thrilling. 

Yes, we can all agree that the situation in which the Chowgarh tigress was killed 
was extraordinary. However, the detailed comparison between Jim’s story and his let- 
ter, written for his sister, and the psychological analyses of the close encounter of a 
human with a lethal predator (from both sides) strongly suggests that in his story Jim 
Corbett simply described the events of the actual hunt. Most of the contradicting de- 
tails of the hunt, described in his letter to Maggie and in the story, were the result of 
gradual corruption of his memory. And most importantly, we came to the conclusion 
that Corbett most likely tried to spare his sister’s nerves by concealing the scariest 
moment of his hunt, when his life was at mercy of a dreaded man-eater. 

In the conclusion we can say with a confidence that we can criticise Jim Corbett 
for occasional memory failures and we should be careful when deciding which of the 


202 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


sources is to be trusted when there are discrepancies. Several such cases are analysed 
in this book. But we cannot accuse him of deliberate changing of the real events in 
order to make his stories a better read. Following his usual writing style, in the story 
of the Chowgarh tigress, Corbett only gave a detailed description of this extraordinary 
hunt at best as he remembered it 29 . 


29 


Author is very grateful to Kristoff Kotecha, Manfred Waltl, and Noel Maxx for helpful comments and 
advice during the final stage of writing of this chapter. 


203 


The Rudraprayag goat controversy 

By PRIYVRAT GADHVI 

While precise date-related inconsistencies are typically encountered more often in 
Corbetts stories, as are enumerated in this book, ‘situational inconsistencies’, the more 
serious consideration, are found in but two occasions. The first, with the climax of the 
Chowgarh hunt, has already been discussed. 

A second such discrepancy arises in Corbett’s 1948 ‘Maneating leopard of 
Rudraprayag’, published in Oxford University Press. The Rudraprayag story, despite 
told in Corbett’s typical narrative, is nevertheless more upfront, fluid in many places, 
albeit in a nuanced way. In moments where the tension is at its zenith, where Corbett’s 
life and sometimes that of his companions literally hangs by a very fine thread & where 
the notorious leopard has him at his complete mercy, Corbett is more forthcoming in 
expressing his fear and distress. 

At no point in the entire book is this unease and tension more pronounced for 
the reader than during the part where Corbett, Ibbotson and another man are ‘teased’ 
by the leopard who has them at his mercy. Below is the extract: 

"It was too good a calling goat to abandon - it had attracted 
the leopard once, and might do so again. Moreover, we had only a few 
hours previously paid good money for it, so we in turn ran up the 
track in hot pursuit. At the bend, the goat turned to the left, and 
we lost sight of it. Keeping to the track, as the goat had done, we 
went to the shoulder of the hill where a considerable extent of the 
hill, clothed in short grass, was visible, and as the goat was no- 
where in sight we decided it had taken a short cut back to the vil- 
lage, and started to retrace our steps. I was leading, and as we got 
half-way along the hundred yards of track, bordered on the upper side 
by scattered bushes and on the steep lower side by short grass, I saw 
something white on the track in front of me. The light had nearly 
gone, and on cautiously approaching the white object I found it was 
the goat laid head and tail on the narrow track, in the only position 
in which it could have been laid to prevent it from rolling down the 
steep hillside Blood was oozing from its throat, and when I placed my 
hand on it the muscles were still twitching. 

It was as though the man-eater - for no other leopard would have 
killed the goat and laid it on the track - had said, 'Here, if you want 
your goat so badly, take it; and as it is now dark and you have a long 
way to go, we will see which of you lives to reach the village. . 

OUP released a book, ‘My Kumaon in 2012, which contains a collection of unpub- 
lished letters and articles on Corbett, and where a full chapter is dedicated to letters 


204 


BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


Corbett wrote home, presumably to Maggie, during the Rudraprayag hunt. Corbett 
wrote consistently, explaining events as they unfolded. 

In one of the letters, dated 4th April 1926, he touches upon the incident mentioned 
above as follows: 

"The goat was above us on the hill and, at my second call, it jumped 
up and took great interest in something further up the hill where we 
could not see. Nothing further happened, so we untied the goat and 
started for the village. The goat kept getting between our legs, so we 
let it loose and it dashed up the hill. As it would not allow itself 
to be caught, we left it behind and found, two days later, that it 
has been killed just where we gave up trying to catch it. Just killed 
and left . . . . " 

Now here, a major inconsistency is observed. While the greatest drama is ex- 
perienced in the book when Corbett approaches the ‘white object’ and touches the 
still-alive goat, with muscles ‘twitching’ and laid perfectly across the track, the letter 
to Maggie only points in passing, how the goat was found two days later where the 
team gave up trying to catch it. 

While in the case of inconsistencies with dates of Corbett’s hunts, it is easy to 
attribute the same to the wholly human, likely and common possibility of inaccurate 
memory for such detail, in this case, the inconsistency is stark! 

While in his letter home, Corbett mentions encountering the dead goat two days 
later, leaving no room for second-guessing. In the chapter of the book, the three men 
dramatically are making a cautious retreat and encounter the goat, in its death throes, 
in a condition where the leopard is menacingly toying with them. The ‘white object’ 
is encountered, observed, touched and it’s twitching felt, with the peril of the helpless 
situation put forth in plain detail. 

Hence, any reconciliation between the two very-different scenarios is impossible. 

With Corbett’s unimpeachable integrity in recounting his experiences, the only 
possible explanation, if one is to discount the improbable and near-impossible action 
of editors of the book making insertions to allow for better reading, and out of the 
possibilities discussed in the previous chapter, is that Corbett wanted to avoid live-tell- 
ing Maggie the true course of the events. Such running commentary, which evidently 
would demonstrate the grave danger Corbett was exposed to on a daily basis while on 
the pursuit of the leopard, would have strained his family’s nerves further and further 
added to their anxiety. 

Corbett’s memory: 

It is also important to consider, while analyzing inconsistencies in the dates, sit- 
uations and scenarios in Corbett’s stories discussed in this book, the famed memory 
of the man, and how the categories and compartments of classification of human 
memory may factor into such analysis. 


THE RUDRAPRAYAG GOAT CONTROVERSY 


205 


It is well known that Corbett had a razor-sharp memory, of what is commonly 
known as ‘photographic’ type. In the making of this book, the phenomenal accuracy 
of Corbett’s memory in recalling and describing the precise locations, difficult for us 
even after a couple of years of being at the same site, was experienced by this group 
and Corbett’s integrity for the same, gloriously validated. 

Despite this, occasional errors with dates are found, as also conflicting situations 
in a couple of places, as discussed in this book. 

What could be the reason why someone who could describe the contours, details 
and constitutions of obscure places in mountainous jungles with awe-inspiring preci- 
sion, who err in more banal recollections of aspects such as dates? 

Corbett has at times himself alluded to his memory of scenes, as in the paragraphs 
reproduced below. 

The answer could lie in briefly discussing the compartmentalization and categories 
of human memory. Literature aplenty is available online to allow us to understand this 
in a concise manner. 

A popular model for studying memory, called the Atkinson- Shiffrin model, devel- 
oped by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin in 1968, catagorises long term human 
memory into the following 

Explicit memory, further categorized into declarative memory, which has two com- 
ponents- episodic memory and semantic memory. These deal with events, facts, 
experiences and concepts 

Implicit memory, which is further categorized into procedural memory deals with 
performance of particular tasks or actions 

If we look at categories of exceptional memory, these include 

Eidetic memory, in which a person has an enhanced capability to images, sounds 
or objects after only a few instances of exposure 

A Mnemonist , alludes to the situation where a person is able to recall numbers, 
names and other small detail with exceptional accuracy 

Emotional or flashbulb memory is described as the case where a person vividly 
remembers detailed information on a personal experience of significance, often pic- 
torial and shocking. This would be a common occurance in many people 

James McGaugh, an American neurobiologist, has coined the term Hyperthyme- 
sia, or superior autobiographical memory, to describe the condition of individuals 
with an extremely enhanced type of episodic memory. 

However, in relation to Corbett’s impressively accurate recollections of his expe- 
riences in his book, the above categories of exceptional memory alluding to a neuro- 
logical medical condition can be discounted, as people with these condition exhibit 
tell-tale symptoms, such as constantly talking about their past and other features of 
unique behaviour, which were obviously absent in Corbett’s case. 

From the two categories of declarative memory: Episodic memory and Semantic 
memory, the former represents memory of specific events and experiences in a serial 
form, including places, times and other contextual matter, which enables us to recon- 


206 


BY PRIYVRAT GADHVI 


struct an event that took place at a specific moment of time. This would include a 
pictorial reproduction of oneself experiencing the event. 

It is thus this category- Episodic memory, that we must focus on while analyzing 
Corbett’s unique capability to recall events, and how errors of dates etc would still be 
found in his stories. 

We know from available literature that the above categories of memory, are phys- 
ically stored & even processed in different parts of the brain. For example, Episod- 
ic memory activity is concentrated in the hippocampus initially, then stored in the 
neocortex. Semantic memory on the other hand, activates the frontal and temporal 
cortexes. 

If we look at Corbetts recollections, we can broadly categorize his recalling of an 
event into two parts- The first, pictorial- depicting what he saw, such as the physical 
features of a location, the event itself, the action of the maneater etc and the second cat- 
egory would be recalling based on numeric data- dates, numbers etc. Although broadly 
speaking, both would fall into the same scientifically defined category of Declarative 
memory (Episodic and Semantic), the latter does not specifically involve recollection 
of a mental ‘picture’, and being so, is decidedly different to the physical and pictorial 
recollection of a place. 

It is common for people to expect an individual who is declared as having a ‘good’ 
or ‘sharp’ memory as having the ability to recall everything accurately, from experi- 
ences to dates, numbers and other things. However, reading literature on the specifics 
of human memory would explain that it is quite possible for an individual to have a 
brilliant ability to recall dates, while being unable to recall experiences with the same 
alacrity, and vice-versa. 

For Jim Corbett, recalling an experience as it happened, including his interactions 
with people, observation of locations etc was never a problem, nor could we detect 
any significant variation between his description of a physical location and it’s actual 
form, since these are pictorial entities that would have remained in the most brilliantly 
high-powered part of his memory- his episodic memory. The various descripancies 
in dates and the few others, which could be generally compartmentalized as being 
‘data-oriented’, were another story. Here, he was more ordinary, like the majority of 
us, with a good, yet unremarkable memory of the type we could assign to a different 
sub-category of declarative memory. 


207 


The Kanda man-eating tigers 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

This chapter is set to throw some light on one of the most enigmatic man-eater 
hunts of Jim Corbett detailed in the book Man-Eaters of Kumaon OUP (Oxford Uni- 
versity Press) 1944. Unashamedly I must reveal to the reader I was reluctant to research 
on it until convinced by Dr Joseph Jordania, Priyvrat Gadhvi and especially Manfred 
Waltl since he spared a few hours of his sleep to search in Booths book for elements. 
The paper however does not offer any solution for the polemics surrounding this 
particular hunt, but it does offer enough material either for simple thought or thor- 
ough research to unveil the mystery over the question of: Were there more than one 
man-eater operating in the region of Kanda near the Dhikala range of the now-Corbett 
National Park between the years 1925 to 1935? Elements are however given to at least 
prove that there existed some mix-ups in the story of the Kanda Man-eater as written 
by Jim Corbett and published in his first book by the OUP. 

Kanda - The first published man-eater story of Corbett 

The story of the Kanda man-eater appearing in Man-eaters of Kumaon is in all 
probability the very first man-eater story put to pen by Corbett and appearing later 
unedited in regular published form. The story was then called “The Terror That Walks 
By Night - An episode of the Indian Jungles” which first appeared in Corbett’s pri- 
vately published ‘Jungle Stories’ in 1935 (100 copies only) and later in July 1936 in 
a magazine called “Indian Wild Life” published by the All India Conference for the 
Preservation of Wild Life’. A photo with the caption “The father of the last victim with 
the tiger” is said to appear next to the page of the story (Booth, Carpet Sahib OUP 
Ed. 2011 pg 182). The editor of the magazine was Indian barrister Hasan Abid Jafry 
in collaboration with Randolph Morris. 

Ten years earlier, however, an edited piece of material written by Corbett appeared 
in a newspaper. This was when Corbett was asked to report on the man-eating leopard 
of Rudraprayag. This report sent to a newspaper, the Pioneer, based in Dehra Dun 
(now state capital of Uttarakhand) but having an office in Nainital, was edited and 
published in its ‘Saturday 15 May 1926’ issue. A copy of this is published in the book 
MY KUMAON (2012, OUP). 

Corbett and his writings - The first critics 

One often questions how Corbett could relate of people, places, dates and events 
while relating stories sometimes three or four decades old. Some think that he had a 
very good memory, but now it seem more likely that he relied on the letters he was 


208 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


writing to Maggie while he was engaged in those hunts. But then how can it be pos- 
sible that Corbett made mistakes (see Corbett Controversies chapter) later when the 
stories were put in published book form? There exists the possibility that his stories 
were edited, but R.E. Hawkins had always refuted these (Hawkins, Jim Corbetts India, 
OUP 1978, Editor’s note). Be it as it is, the Kanda man-eater story as it appears in 
Man-eaters of Kumaon is nothing compared with the ‘same’ story published in 1936, 
‘. . .not a long story but it is exciting and unembellished unlike some of the other tales 
Jim was to write in his later years’ as criticized by Martin Booth in his book ‘Carpet 
Sahib’. A long letter sent by Corbett to Maggie from Dhikala dated 19 July 1932 pub- 
lished in Booth’s book, which describes the account of the Kanda man-eater seems 
more fitting with “The Terror that Walks by Night” published earlier (unedited) than 
the Kanda man-eater published in Man-eaters of Kumaon. 

The Kanda Man-Eater Chapter in Man-eaters of Kumaon -An 
overview 

Unlike other Corbett hunts described in his three man-eater hunting books, the 
story of the Kanda man-eater is the only one which lacks names of officials, villages, 
any people; the usual thorough description of the hunting in terms of direction, rivers, 
ridges or hills, distances from landmarks or neighbouring physical features, number of 
victims, nature and description of disability of the animal or even its gender (plainly 
stated as ‘tiger’) and appearance whether it was young or large or average size, the 
list is not exhaustive. Moreover the only indication of a date (in the core story, not 
the attached letter) is the month of ‘May’ no year and only two references are made 
to names of places, Lansdowne and Dhikala. The Mohan man-eater story is also one 
of the category of absence of date, but is very much more detailed, and finally of the 
thirteen pages composing the story of Kanda, one is dedicated to a letter sent by vil- 
lagers, two on a hamadryad hunt and four on the story of the last victim and if you 
count one a half for the pale introduction of the story, you are left with only four and 
a half pages for the effective hunting of the tiger. 

Controversy in Man-eaters of Kumaon - Two Kanda Tigers 

“This was the last of the three man-eaters that I had promised the District Officials 
of Kumaon, and later the people of Garhwal, that I would do my best to rid them of.” 
These were the last lines of the Kanda man-eater chapter in Man-eaters of Kuma- 
on. Two deductions can be made from this above quote: 

The ‘promise’ to the District Officials was made in February 1929 as asserted by 
Corbett in the chapter ‘Mohan man-eater’ in Man-eaters of Kumaon 

‘later to the people of Garhwal’ refers to the letter the villagers sent to Corbett 
dated 18 February 1933 (published in ‘Kanda Chapter’ in Man-eaters of Kumaon). 


THE KANDA MAN-EATING TIGERS 


209 


All appears to be fine except that the controversy appears in the letter of the people 
of Garhwal as follows: 

“That in this vicinity a tiger has turned out man-eater since December last [De- 
cember 1932 as per date of letter]. Up to this date he has killed 5 men and wounded 2.” 

This cannot be the tiger mentioned in the District Conference of February 1929. 

Fortunately we have a date for the killing of the Kanda man-eater. This is provided 
in Booth’s book where he publishes the letter sent by Corbett to Maggie on the 19 th 
July 1932. The date the Kanda man-eater is killed is the 16 th of July 1932. Therefore 
the Garhwal villagers appeal to Corbett for another tiger in 1933. 

Corbett’s letter to Maggie (19 July 1932) 

The OUP edition of 2011 of Martin Booth’s book (‘Carpet Sahib’) has published 
this letter on page 203, and for the sake of fairness, it shall not be published here, but 
the essence will however be given to you. The story of the killing of the man-eater 
detailed in the letter is about 90% similar to the four and a half pages dedicated to the 
hunting of the tiger in the chapter of the Kanda man-eater in Man-eaters of Kumaon, 
except that more details are given and these are: Dates, times and names are given 
and tiger details too: 

The tiger killed a bullock on the 13th of July 1932. 

The next day (14th) on visiting the kill, Corbett manages to get a shot at the tiger. 

The next day ( 1 5th) Corbett tries to call the tiger and at 4pm he selects a tree and 
sits on it. 

The tiger gets killed on the following morning around 6 am, the 16th of July 1932. 

When investigating the bullock killed, two people accompanied Corbett and one 
of them is named Bakhtar. 

The tiger was carried to the nearest village some !4 mile away and Corbett took 
some 40feet of film of it, then skinned it. 

The tiger’s mouth, and both forepaws and forearms were full of porcupine quills, 
and had an old wound of a broken foot, not quite a disability. 

The tiger was between 9ft08 and 9ftl0 over curves, a large one. 

The story in the letter was published in narration form entitled “The Terror That 
Walks By Night” in 1935 and 1936 as said before. In Man-eaters of Kumaon, published 
in 1944, the story has additions of the hamadryad hunt, letter of villagers and last 
victim account. 

Were there really TWO Kanda man-eating tigers? 

A quote of a paragraph of the letter sent by Jim Corbett to Maggie on the 19th of 
July 1932 reads as follows: 

"If the tiger that kept on visiting me at night was the same ani- 
mal that I shot, then the addition of the porcupine quills makes it 
almost certain that I have accounted for the man-eater. The last two 


210 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


human kills on the 23rd and 26th of March [1932] took place in the ra- 
vines on either side of the one in which I shot the tiger. There may, 
of course, have been two tigers in the ravine that night, possible 
but not probable." 

Corbett was himself wondering if he had shot the right tiger that is, the Kanda 
man-eater. This fragment of the letter makes us think that Corbett was trying to con- 
vince himself that he shot the ONLY tiger, the correct man-eater of Kanda. But later 
the villagers of Garhwal would prove him wrong by telling him that since December 
1932, a tiger has turned out man-eater in their vicinity, a second tiger. 

We have to discount the possibility here that the villagers might have been of a far 
locality than Kanda since in their letter ‘Kanda’ is made mention of at the last sentence. 
Some research had to be done to confirm the fact. 

"From The Public of patty Painaun, Bungi and Bickla Badalpur Dis- 
trict Garhwal" 

This is mentioned in the letter sent by the villagers requesting him to come to their 
help as published in Man-eaters of Kumaon (Kanda man-eater chapter). Research of 
these locations reveals nothing on a standard district map, but the main clues of where 
these are located is given in the letter itself where it mentions “Kanda” and by the sig- 
natory of the letter Mr Govind Singh Negi, who includes “Badialgaon district” in his 
address. An old map of the United Provinces reveals that this is south of Lansdowne 
and west of Dhikala, by some 5 miles. Therefore, the letter indeed refers to ANOTHER 
man-eater which has been operating in the assembly of patties (small villages) known 
as KANDA as at 18 February 1933, date of the letter, a second Kanda man-eater. 

Co-existence of Tigers - A theory 

The Kanda man-eater had been killed on the 16th of July 1932 and it had killed a 
bullock on the 13th of July, then by subtraction from the date of the last human kill 
(26th March) we see that the man-eater had not made a single human kill for about 
three and a half months. This is quite normal, since if the man-eater manages to kill 
normal prey or cattle, he could have survived, but can a tiger with a broken foot al- 
though not too serious, but with porcupine quills in mouth, forepaws and forearms 
manage to kill normal prey for subsistence for three and a half months? Since not 
much is said about how many cattle he killed, not too much I am inclined to believe 
as these were not mentioned either in Man-eaters of Kumaon or “Terror that Walks 
by Night”, we can only answer this question by putting forward a theory. 

The theory is that there could have been a second tiger which was assisting him 
in making kills or providing left-over from kills to him for that period, an assumption 
for which Jim Corbett himself made, as seen in the previous sub-section’s quote, but 
was very unsure of it, or didn’t he? 

We cannot but answer this new question while basing ourselves on a fact. This idea 
came to me when seeing a documentary on the old male tiger ‘Charger’ after being 


THE KANDA MAN-EATING TIGERS 


211 


driven out by his grandson ‘Bl’ in Bhandavgarh NP. Charger then came to occupy 
Bakshi’s territory, a daughter of his and mother of Bl. Bakshi tolerated Charger to a 
certain extent and the latter announced its presence by calling when it had detected 
that Bakshi and her cubs were feeding. Then Bakshi would urge her cubs back to safety 
and Charger would be left to eat at his convenience. The reverse also happened when 
Bakshi fed on a left-over by Charger who had found a carcass. This strange symbiosis 
which on some circumstances benefit both party as the narrator of the documentary 
points out is more recurrent now as the forest territory is limited and sometimes, we 
can see an older male and a quite younger male on the same territory; perhaps, but 
not necessarily, his son. Generally to avoid confrontation, as the older one knows he’s 
weaker or the younger does not know that he’s stronger, they communicates their 
presence by a characteristic growl especially when approaching a kill whether killed 
by him or the other. 

Here is an extract of the Kanda story from Man-eaters of Kumaon: 

"There were no suitable trees within convenient distance of the 
kill, and the very unpleasant experience I had had on a former occa- 
sion had effectively cured me of sitting at night on the ground for a 
man-eater. While still undecided where to sit I heard the tiger call, 
some distance down the valley up which I had climbed the previous 
day . " 

Man-eaters and tigers in general do not announce their coming towards a kill 
by a growl or call. Corbett then tries to call the tiger but the latter refused to come: 

“On the present occasion, however, though the tiger answered me, call for call, for 
upwards of an hour, he refused to come any nearer,...” 

Why? Because if there were two tigers in the vicinity, the old wounded tiger would 
not come if he’s being answered as he would thought the other is reluctant to leave 
the kill. This is an assumption contrary to what Corbett explains why the tiger would 
not come nearer - 

"...and I attributed my failure to the fact that I was calling from 
a spot where the previous day the tiger had met with an unfortunate 
experience [first shot ] . " 

But Corbett is not convincing here, since he himself admits earlier in the story the 
day after the tiger was first shot and wounded that: 

“On visiting the kill the following morning, I was very pleased and not a little sur- 
prised to find that the tiger had returned to it during the night and taken a light meal” 

This cannot be the same tiger that returns to the kill during the night while it was 
shot there during the day. At least this is a supposition since Corbett admits of having 
been ‘not a little surprised’. 

The fact that the tiger announces its coming by a growl and does not come when 
answered by a growl is the same situation as the story of Charger and Bakshi. Therefore 
it is more probable than not that there were TWO tigers in Kanda in July 1932, one 


212 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


man-eater (wounded) and (most probably) an ordinary one. Why this ordinary tiger 
or any other tiger turning out man-eater in the same locality some months after the 
man-eater is shot is a question that can be answered by numerous theories but not 
relevant here for our discussion. Food for your thought is somewhat given to you. 
December is the mating season for tigers, imagine the second tiger being a female 
and deprived of the only possible mate. 

Final Controversy - Garhwal or Kumaon 

Kanda is an assembly of villages found in the Garhwal revenue division, no ques- 
tion about that. In the Chowgarh Tigers story in Man-eaters of Kumaon, an allusion 
is made to a district conference as follows: 

“It was at a District Conference in February 1929 that I found myself committed 
to have a try for this tiger [Chowgarh]. There were at that time three man-eaters in the 
Kumaon [sic] division, and as the Chowgarh tiger had done most damage I promised 
to go in pursuit of it first.” 

In British Colonial India, Provinces were fragmented in Revenue Divisions which 
comprised of districts. Such an example for the United Provinces which among its nu- 
merous revenue divisions had the Garhwal revenue division and the Kumaon revenue 
division as separate divisions. The Garhwal revenue division is a district of its own, 
while Kumaon comprised two districts, Almora and Nainital. 

So, when Corbett writes there were 3 man-eaters in the Kumaon division, they 
could only be from districts Nainital and Almora only. The Kanda man-eater who is in 
Garhwal could not form part of the 3 man-eaters described in the District Conference 
of February 1929. 

Where Man-eaters of Kumaon’s publishers (can’t think it was Corbett) write in the 
Mohan man-eater chapter that: 

“At the District Conference, to which reference has been made in a previous story, 
the three man-eating tigers operating at that time in the Kumaon Division [sic] were 
classed, as follows in their order of importance: 

1st - Chowgarh, Nainital District 

2nd - Mohan, Almora District 

3rd - Kanda, Garhwal District” 

We find highly controversial that the Kanda man-eater appear in the list, since 
Garhwal is a district and a revenue division of its own, which is not in Kumaon. In an 
opinion, one is inclined to think that it is the publishers of Man-eaters of Kumaon that 
chose to include Kanda as the 3rd man-eater of the District Conference of Kumaon. 
A reason for that is given here in the following sub-chapter. 


THE KANDA MAN-EATING TIGERS 


213 


District Conference of 1929 - The Real List! 

The Deputy Commissioners of Almora district in February 1929 was William 
Henry ‘Bill’ Baines (or Baynes) and that of Nainital district was Graham ‘Ham’ Vivi- 
an. The Man-eaters of Kumaon publishers write in separate instances in two separate 
books - again it is inclined to believe that it was not Corbett - two different renderings 
on the now-famous District Conference of 1929. These are, firstly in Man-eaters of 
Kumaon (Chapter: Mohan Man-eater): 

"After the Chowgarh tiger had been accounted for, I was reminded 
by Baines, Deputy Commissioner, Almora, that only a part of my prom- 
ise made at the [district] conference had been fulfilled, and that 
the Mohan tiger was next on the list" 

then in Temple Tiger (Chapter: Talla Des man-eater) it is written that: 

"Bill Baynes and Ham Vivian were Deputy Commissioners of, respec- 
tively, Almora and Nainital in the year 1929, and both were suffering 
from man-eaters, the former from the Talla Des man-eating tiger, and 
the latter from the Chowgarh man-eating tiger. I had promised Vivian 
that I would try to shoot his tiger first, but as it had been less ac- 
tive during the winter months than Baynes' s, I decided, with Vivian's 
approval, to try for the other [Talla Des] first." 

It now becomes clear especially after consideration that Baynes (spelled differently 
in the two books) had at that time two man-eaters in his district of Almora (Talla Des 
and Mohan) and that the Kanda man-eater, which is not from Kumaon revenue divi- 
sion, was not in the ‘list’. Further since Baynes was at the District Conference of 1929 
to mention about the Mohan Tiger, it is hard to conceive that he did not mention the 
Talla Des man-eater who had operated for 8 years in his district and done over 150 
people, as calamitous as the leopard of Rudraprayag. 

The correct list should therefore have read as follows: 

1st - The Talla Des man-eater - Almora district 
2nd - The Chowgarh man-eater - Nainital district 
3rd - The Mohan man-eater - Almora district 

The order may have classed Chowgarh first and Talla Des as second. Elsewhere 
in this book, we have proved that Corbett had a try after the Chowgarh man-eater 
first in 1928 before the conference, but this is not important here. What is important 
is that the Kanda man-eater would not have been in ‘that list’ in 1929, but requested 
later by villagers of Garhwal. This is evident from the ending of the Kanda story in 
Man-eaters of Kumaon which we shall quote again here: 

"This was the last of the three man-eaters that I had promised the 
District Officials of Kumaon, and later the people of Garhwal, that I 
would do my best to rid them of." 

Elsewhere in this book, we have mentioned to you readers that we had gained 
access to a copy of Jungle Stories thanks to our guest author Marc Newton. We have 


214 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


read the story of “The Terror that walks by night” in it and found it to be 99.9% similar 
to the FIRST NINE pages of the chapter Kanda man-eater in Man-Eaters of Kumaon. 
What does not follow is the addition of the story of the boy-recruit of the Garhwal 
Regiment and his brave father, which is an additional 4 pages in the Kanda chapter. 
Of course nothing is mentioned of the District Conference at its end or the promise 
to villagers like in the Kanda man-eater chapter. 

It looks as though the publishers of Man-eaters of Kumaon were doing their best 
to put their eggs in the same basket, but why? 

To venture to answer this question, consider this quote from Temple Tiger (Chap- 
ter: Talla Des man-eater): 

"My story concerns the Talla Des tiger, and I have refrained from 
telling it until I had written Jungle Lore" 

Elsewhere in this book (Corbett Controversies Chapter), you are told at best, why 
Talla Des had to be kept for another book while it should have appeared in Man-eaters 
of Kumaon quite logically. 

Therefore as a conclusion, it incurred to the publishers of Man-eaters of Kumaon 
to have had to edit some facts so that the “Terror that Walks by Night” story could 
have been included in the book (Man-eaters of Kumaon) as the Kanda man-eater. 

As you have seen, the possibility that the Kanda Man-eater was not mentioned 
at the district conference of February 1929 does exist, and that little manipulation by 
the publishers and editors that would have resulted in trying to fit it in, in place of 
the Talla-Des man-eater, which was to be saved for another book could have caused 
prejudice to Jim Corbett’s reputation of a man of extreme precision and accuracy of 
reporting facts and actual happenings. Luckily it didn’t, the ten years elapsed between 
the publication of Man-eaters of Kumaon and Temple Tiger saved it. 

The Kanda Man-Eater was shot by Jim Corbett on 19 July 1932 as attested by both 
a letter written to Maggie by Corbett on that same date detailing the killing of the 
tiger (Courtesy: Martin Booth - Carpet Sahib , 2011 Edition, pg. 203) and a telegram 
sent by him from Ramnagar to “Corbett, Gurney Flouse, Nainital” postmarked 20 July 
1932 famously saying: “All Well liome Tomorrow Tiger is Dead Jim” - The Photostat is 
courtesy of Constable publications where Booth published his first edition of “Carpet 
Sahib, A life of Jim Corbett” in 1986. 1 hope now that detractors of Martin Booth can 
satisfy themselves that the man did not cheat. He made mistakes out of interpretation 
I think, we shall see later, but his sources are very reliable. 

Of course, this tiger cited in the telegram has nothing to do with the ‘tiger who 
turned out man-eater December last’ in the appeal letter (Dated 18 February 1933) 
sent by villagers of Kanda patties requesting Corbett to come and shoot the Kanda 
man-eater which Corbett tells us of. 

P.S. Year 1932 is in the date stamp, the original differs slightly from this Photostat 
where it appears clearly 20 JLY 32 - This material is still subject to copyright and 
pending approval from Constable, cannot be published. 


215 


Chowgarh Tigress Cub killing Date 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Corbett first arrives in Kala Agar in April 1929 to go after the Chowgarh Tigers. 
Ele was already aware that the man-eater was accompanied by a fully grown cub: In 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon we find that: 

”... Kala Agar Forest Bungalow. This bungalow was my objective, and 
after a four days' march, culminating in a still climb of 4000 feet, 
I arrived at it one evening in April 1929." 

And 

"This statement, that there were two tigers, confirmed the re- 
ports I had already received that the man-eater was accompanied by a 
full-grown cub." 

Four days after his arrival, Corbett shot the full grown female cub after mistaking 
it for its mother, the man-eating tigress of Chowgarh. But there are evidence from his 
other writings that - Corbett was not there in April 1929 - this we obtain from the 
story of the Talla-Des Man-eater. 

Before continuing, I would however wish to discount effects of fading memory 
of Corbett when citing him from the book ‘Temple Tiger’ published in 1954 because 
there are still evidence that the story of the Talla Des Man-eater was ‘ready’ long before 
the publication of the book and he was accurately giving dates of this story, as we shall 
see here while in the Chowgarh story, there is only one accurate date (11 April 1930, 
date of shooting of the man-eater). 

Evidence that the story of the Talla-Des man-eater was ready ‘long ago’ are given 
in Man-eaters of Kumaon and Temple Tiger. 

In Man-eaters of Kumaon we find that in the Champawat man-eater chapter: 

"It is a popular belief that man-eaters do not eat the head, 
hands, and feet of the human victims. This is incorrect. Man-eat- 
ers, if not disturbed, eat everything - including the blood-soaked 
clothes, as I found on one occasion; however, that is another story 
and will be told some other time." 

This ‘occasion’ was of course the Talla-Des man-eater cubs as cited in Temple 
Tiger: 

"...vultures alighted on the trees fringing the open ground on which 
my tent is pitched. It was these that brought to light the missing 
clothes of the man-eater's victim, for the cubs had torn the blood- 
soaked garments into strips and swallowed them." 

Later in Temple Tiger we get further evidence that the story of the Talla-Des 
man-eater had been withheld for years since Corbett writes in the epilogue that: 

"The story of the Talla-Des Man-eater - which I refrained from 
telling until I had written Jungle Lore - has now been told." 


216 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Previously in the chapter itself in Temple Tiger, Corbett writes: 

"My story concerns the Talla Des tiger, and I have refrained from 
telling it until I had written Jungle Lore. For without first reading 
Jungle Lore, and knowing that I had learnt - when a boy and later - 
how to walk in a jungle and use a rifle, and the credulity of all who 
were not present in Kumaon at that time would have been strained and 
this, after my previous stories had been accepted at face value, was 
the last thing I desired." 

This digression was necessary about telling you that perhaps the Talla-Des 
Man-eater story was nearly as fresh in Corbett’s memories as the Chowgarh Tigers 
published ten years earlier, because the story with more accurate dates had been de- 
liberately withheld. 

Further in the chapter in Temple Tiger, Corbett himself admits: 

''...and the events of the five days I spent hunting the man-eating 
tiger of Talla-Des are as clear-cut and fresh in my memory today as 
they were 25 years ago." 

If you’re satisfied that memory won’t play part in this controversy I’m about of 
telling you, then we proceed. 

I’ve already set out to you that the killing of the Chowgarh cub could not have 
been in April 1929, at least Corbett could not have been in Kala Agar in April 1929 
when he claims he first arrived after four days walk to go after the tigers. The following 
time-line, from the chapter in Temple Tiger, will help you to see why. 

April 4 - Corbett leaves Nainital for Tanakpur. 

April 7 - Terrific show of marksmanship by Corbett and he shoots 3 tigers in a row 

April 12 - Kills man-eating tigress of Talla-Des 

April 13 - Spends day in partly drying the skin 

April 16 - ‘3 days later I was safely back in my home’ 

April 23 - ‘ A week after my return to Nainital, Sir Malcolm Hailey gave me an 
introduction to Colonel Dick, an ear specialist, who treated me for 3 months in his 
hospital in Lahore...” 

Now, notwithstanding the 3 months, Lahore which was in the former North West 
Frontier Province, is still some ten days away from Nainital, but there is still a possi- 
bility that after April 23 of the year 1929, when Hailey gave Corbett the introduction 
to the ear doctor that Corbett went immediately after the Chowgarh Tigers instead of 
Lahore!!! But would you believe that? 

If you don’t then adding the Lahore trip (to and from) and the 3 months, that gives 
you the possibility of Corbett going after the Chowgarh cub at the end of August of 
1929 or early September 1929, a monsoon month, which would not have been pos- 
sible for a hunt, then later the winter months arrive, still no possibility of a hunt. In 
fact, the only man-eater hunted in a September month was the Panar Leopard, and 
he also hunted Thak tigress in October-November. All other Corbett hunts were held 
from March to July. 


CHOWGARH TIGRESS CUB KILLING DATE 


217 


So when was the Chowgarh cub hunted and killed? Certainly not in early 1930 
(January and February are winter months) as Corbett himself writes in Temple Tiger: 

"I had promised Vivian that I would try to shoot his tiger [Chow- 
garh] first, but as it had been less active in the winter months than 
Baynes' s [Talla-Des], I decided, with Vivian's approval to try for 
the other first [Talla Des]" 

There is yet another controversy about those two man-eaters operating in two 
separate districts, this is treated in the chapter “The two Kanda man-eaters” of this 
book, but would be too lengthy to include here. So since the first trip to Chowgarh 
by Corbett lasts one month, the cub was definitely not shot in March 1930 because 
Corbett arrived in Kala Agar for the man-eating mother tigress in end of March 1930. 

There is also the possibility that Corbett shoots the cub of the Chowgarh tigress 
in January or early February 1929, which are again winter months, so they get elim- 
inated. Could it be March 1929? Again No because Corbett himself writes that in 
Temple Tiger: 

“For Me the rest of February [1929] was torture.” 

And later he writes: 

"The doctor at Kaladhungi, a keen young man who had recently com- 
pleted his medical training, confirmed my fears that my eardrum had 
been destroyed. A month later we moved up to our summer home in Nain- 
ital..." 

This leaves the possibility that the cub of the Chowgarh tigress was killed prior 
to 1929, then Martin Booth, in his book “Carpet Sahib” OUP 2011 Edition page 203 
reveals a very interesting letter which Corbett writes to Maggie dated 17 May 1928, 
describing that he was still on the hunting scene of the Chowgarh tigress as follows 
in this extract of the letter: 

"The remaining man-eater does not appear to be able to kill with- 
out the help of her companion. Two women she has caught lately both 
got away with terribly wounded heads, I am doctoring them and think 
one will live...." 

The letter continues as Corbett describes he had an unsuccessful attempt at the 
man-eating tigress. Therefore it is safe to assume that Corbett shot the cub of the 
Chowgarh tigress in April 1928 or at most in early May 1928, but not in the year 1929 
as he has mentioned in Man-eaters of Kumaon, presumably, by mistake. 

This cub of the Chowgarh man-eater could have been at most aged twenty-four 
months when she was assisting her mother to make kills. Therefore she was born in a 
possible period April/May 1926. Considering the mating season of tigers (November 
to February) and the gestation period of a little above three months, this is perfectly 
plausible. 

I admit of being a too keen Corbett fan to think that hunting man-eaters was his 
main pre-occupation, but on many occasions, I have seen that he had not had the time 
or the inclination to go after man-eaters immediately after he was notified of them. 


218 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Sometimes this took up to 3 years for him to have taken a try. But the years 1928 
(Chowgarh cub), 1929 (Talla Des & cubs), 1930 (Chowgarh), 1931 (Mohan), 1932 
(First Kanda) and 1933 (possibly second Kanda) were busy years for him because 
during the good seasons (March to July) he managed to go after 5 man-eaters and 
their cubs. If we add the years 1925 and 1926 for the Rudraprayag leopard, this leaves 
only the year 1927 for him to have had a rest during the good seasons in a span of 9 
years. A truly amazing feat for a man of over 55 years old at that time. 

As en ending of this chapter, I should like to share yet another controversial date 
with Corbett fans, for which I am unable up to now to give an exact solution. It is 
given in Man-Eaters of Kumaon that the Chowgarh man-eater career started on the 15 
December 1925: Corbett writes about a map of Eastern Kumaon on which the victims 
of the man-eater is denoted by crosses: 

"The first cross is dated 15 December 1925..." 

Now that we have known that Corbett had killed the Chowgarh cub in April/ 
May 1928, a day after this feat, there is a sentence in the book about which Corbett 
writes of ‘his gaunt friend’ (see elsewhere in the book for a chapter on this) who in an 
encounter with the Chowgarh man-eater, is badly mauled but survives: 

"The encounter had taken place four years previously..." 

Subtracting years give the year 1924 as the Chowgarh man-eater attacking Cor- 
bett’s gaunt friend’. Even if you assume that Corbett killed the Chowgarh cub in April 
1929 as stated in Man-Eaters of Kumaon, you would arrive at early in 1925 as the 
attack on Corbett’s gaunt friend, many months before the first alleged victim’s date of 
15 December 1925. 

Therefore in the ‘Chowgarh Tigers’ chapter in Man-Eaters of Kumaon, there 
should be also at least one more inaccurate date or period: either the 15 December 
1925 given as the start of the man-eating career of the Chowgarh tigress or the ‘four 
years previously’ as the period since the attack on the ‘gaunt friend’ of Corbett till 
they meet. Most probably, it is reasonable to believe that the Chowgarh man-eater 
attacked Corbett’s gaunt friend’ just after the start of its man-eating career and the 
most probable year would have been 1924. 

What tends towards this belief is that Corbett himself admits in Man-Eaters of 
Kumaon that: 

"There are sixty four crosses on the map. I do not claim this as 
being a correct tally, for the map was posted up by for two years and 
during this period all kills were not reported to me; further, vic- 
tims who were only mauled, and who died subsequently, have not been 
awarded a cross and a date." 

Therefore there is a strong suspicion that the map was inaccurate and that possibly 
there were kills earlier than 15 December 1925 that were not reported. How much 
earlier? We are not in a position to tell, but it could be well in 1924. 


219 


The Muktesar Man-Eater killing Date 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Before revealing you this controversy, an admission of gigantic proportions has 
to be made here: It is difficult to go against a famous citing Corbett made in Temple 
Tiger in the chapter of the Panar man-eater: 

“No matter how full of happiness our life may have been, there are periods in it 
that we look back to with special pleasure. Such a period for me was the year 1910, for 
in that year I shot the Muktesar man-eating tigress and the Panar Man-eating leopard, 
and in between these two...” 

However that may be, it is the only instance of assigning a year to the killing of the 
Muktesar man-eater by Corbett in the book Temple Tiger and it appears in the chapter 
of the Panar Man-eater. But some other references help us to get some insight into 
about what period of time the Muktesar man-eater was operating. Our benchmark 
lies on the year of killing of the Champawat man-eater which is unquestionably 1907, 
as it appears on the metal plate on the butt of the .275 Rigby Mauser which Corbett 
earned in recognition of this achievement. Corbett too gives this year in the starting 
line of the chapter of the Panar man-eater. 

A very worthy paragraph has to be cited here from the chapter of Panar man-eater 
in Temple Tiger: 

"When I returned home in Nainital after killing the Champawat ti- 
ger I was asked by the Government to undertake the shooting of the 
Panar leopard. I was working hard for a living at the time and sev- 
eral weeks elapsed before I was able to spare the time to undertake 
this task, and then just as I was ready to start for the outlying area 
of the Almora district in which the leopard was operating, I received 
an urgent request from Berthoud, the Deputy Commissioner of Nainital, 
to go to the help of the people of Muktesar where a man-eating tiger 
had established a reign of terror. After hunting down the tiger, an 
account of which I have given, I went in pursuit of the Panar leop- 
ard . " 

What we learn in this paragraph was that both the Panar and the Muktesar 
man-eaters were already operating in 1907 and that most possibly in that same year, 
Corbett set after the Muktesar man-eater. 

Corbett previously says in the chapter of Muktesar man-eater in Temple Tiger: 

"I heard of the tigress shortly before she started killing human 
beings..." and a little later: 

"When the toll of human victims had risen to 24, however. . . [ ] ... 
the veterinary officer in charge of the institute requested the Gov- 
ernment to solicit my help." 


220 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


These two citing link perfectly and they indicate us that in 1907, the Muktesar 
man-eater had already killed 24 people till Berthoud upon request of the veterinary 
officers in Muktesar, called upon Corbett to go after the man-eater of Muktesar. What 
would have tallied perfectly with the famous citing quoted at the start of this paper 
would have been Corbett saying (hypothetically of course): Three years elapsed before 
I could undertake this task; instead of: Several weeks elapsed. A huge difference one 
will agree: Could several weeks mean Hundred-and-fifty weeks for Corbett? Of course 
No! Oxford Current English Dictionary of 1964 Edition gives the meaning of ‘several’ 
as ‘more than two but not too many; few. . .’ 

Therefore, according to my theory, it is more likely that Corbett had heard of the 
tigress ‘several weeks’ after the Champawat man-eater, a question of interpretation 
which sounds more plausible. No question of memory lapse, even if the story of the 
Panar leopard was written four decades later, several weeks cannot mean several years! 

Another revelation in the citing of the Muktesar man-eater chapter above is that 
Corbett learnt about the man-eater shortly after it started killing human beings and 
goes after it when the toll reaches 24. Here, shortly can only mean from what we had 
learnt in the Author’s note of Man-Eaters of Kumaon, the story of the tigress till it 
killed its fourth victim without provocation. This paragraph is reproduced almost 
word for word in Temple Tiger’s Muktesar man-eater chapter. A confirmation of the 
theory that Corbett hears about the Muktesar man-eater after shooting Champawat 
tigress, not goes out after the Muktesar man-eater. 

We can come to the following conclusions: Corbett hears about the tigress before 
he starts for the Champawat man-eater, then does go after it when it had killed 24 
people. Strange as it is, a controversy occurs here when he is done with the latter, he 
still chooses the former over a leopard credited with over 400 human kills, following 
an ‘urgent’ request from Berthoud. Which one was most urgent? I think that the 
Muktesar tigress was not killed in 1910. It was killed before. Here are the reasons why. 

A man-eating tigress without cubs like the Muktesar tigress who lived partly on 
a diet of cattle, would have killed 20 people (remember she killed the first 4 in the 
space of a week) in the space of 20 months at most. This would count from mid- 1907 
when the tigress started its toll to February/March 1909. 

Therefore according to my theory dated April 2012, the Muktesar man-eater was 
shot by Corbett in 1909. At that time in 2012, I had expressed doubts on this issue 
because Corbett claimed he was after the Panar man-eater in April 1910, was also 
after the Dabhidura Temple Tiger in April 1910 while in the latter story Corbett said 
in Temple Tiger: 

"When two years previously I had been hunting the Champawat 
man-eater, I had made friends with this frail old man [Dabhidura Tem- 
ple priest ] ..." 

This gives us the quoting of the year 1910 being reduced to 1909, and I had already 
attracted my ‘Corbett-brother’ Manfred Waltl’s attention while we were attending the 


THE MUKTESAR MAN-EATER KILLING DATE 


221 


Dabhidura Forest office that a note painted on the wall of the office stated (in Hindi) 
that as per records, Corbett stayed at this (then) Forest Bungalow, in 1909 and had 
gone after the Dabhidura Temple guarded tiger. 

My doubts and therefore my theory had been confirmed in October 2012 when 
OUP published a collection of unpublished writings on/of Corbett called MY KUMA- 
ON in which a newspaper clip had been reproduced under the Chapter “Reactions in 
the Press” on page 127 of the only edition to date of that book. A news reporter for 
“The Lake Zephyr - A Social Weekly” dated 21 April 1909 reports the story of the 
killing of the Muktesar man-eater. 

A line or two is worth to quote from the article: 

"...Mr James Corbett has just again rid the district of a man-eating 
tigress which, during the past four or five months, had killed sev- 
eral natives..." and 

"...had at last appealed to the Deputy Commissioner to make some ar- 
rangement for its destruction. On the news reaching Mr Corbett, he at 
once started off and..." 

These last citing were made to help you note that Corbett was not informed in 
1907 (several weeks after Champawat) but in 1909 itself, as I had doubted and that 
indeed that tigress was making an average of approximately 1 human being per month. 

Further, and this one is a damning evidence as would have been called by a law- 
yer: Charles Berthoud who asks Corbett to go after the Muktesar man-eater died on 
the 28th December 1909. Therefore he could not have been there in 1910 to instruct 
Corbett to go after the Muktesar man-eater as Corbett claimed by mistake (see the 
chapter dedicated to Berthoud in this book). 

The Muktesar man-eater is therefore shot and killed during the period March/ 
April 1909. 


222 


The Panar Leopard killing date 

By PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Martin booth had not only thrown a cold shower on Corbett fans in 2011 OUP 
Edition of his book (1st edition Constable 1986) but also fed water towards the wa- 
ter-wheel of Corbett detractors not to say fuel to their fire of hatred towards what they 
called a ‘fully-paid-up imperialist of Corbett! On page 147 we read: 

"The truth is that Jim got his dates wrong. He did shoot the Cham- 
pawat man-eater in 1907 and he was asked if he would immediately go 
after the other two creatures [Panar and Muktesar] . In fact, he did 
not or - he did go after the Muktesar man-eater in 1907 - he was un- 
successful and did not care to remember his failure (sic) . It was 
not until the early spring of 1910 that he finally went after the two 
other beasts; in the intervening years they claimed many more vic- 
tims. Jim tended to overlook this fact in later years and it seems 
that his love for the hill folk did not always take precedence over 
his pressing business affairs." 

The fact that Corbett fans and legacy went booming on the Internet after Booth’s 
death (2004) did not arrange what he had wrongly interpreted and written in his book. 
The previous controversy of Muktesar has, at least in my mind, been cleared of and 
Booth may have regretted not to have seen it in this way (presented above) if he was 
still with us today. 

But an e-paper published by the environmental portal of India whose authors I do 
not even dare to cite had dug even deeper in Booth and had quoted this paragraph (or 
part of). According to Martin Booth, Corbett’s first attempt at the Panar man-eater 
had been interrupted because: 

"Unsuccessful in this attempt, Jim left the area, though not with- 
out spending some time attempting to shoot - for sport - a tiger re- 
puted to be protected by the gods and therefore immortal..." 

On the same context, Booth rubs salt on the wound several times writing amongst 
others: 

"One has to ask questions here which throw some doubts upon Jim' s 
character, suggesting that he was not as unblemished as his future 
legendary reputation was to make it appear." 

"He had possibly waited 3 years to go after the Muktesar and Panar 
man-eaters..." and "...he seemingly did not seek to follow up the trail 
[of the leopard]..." or "...he obviously had enough time on leaving the 
area to indulge in a bit of would-be-sport hunting..." 

"Obviously his anguish at hearing the farmer's young wife die did 
not affect him too deeply." 


THE PANAR LEOPARD KILLING DATE 


223 


Martin Booth made extensive research on Corbett retracing many letters from 
his surviving relatives and friends, but also relied a lot on D.C. Kala especially on the 
latter’s pioneer research works. But what Martin Booth failed to do when winding 
up his book was to make the necessary interpretations as when Corbett was writing. 

The generally accepted idea that ‘Corbett had a fresher memory when writing 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon than’ Temple Tiger though not a generality, as we have seen 
earlier, would have helped him. He would not have written such insanities if he had 
considered for an instant that Corbett was writing Temple Tiger four and a half de- 
cades after his first man-eater experiences. In fact, what is general about Corbett’s 
accuracy is not when he’s giving just a month or a year as dates. We can rely on 
Corbett when he gives precise dates such as 11 April 1930 (Chowgarh Tigress) or 30 
November 1938 (Thak Tigress). 

In the case of the Panar man-eater when he comes for the second attempt, apart 
from giving elsewhere in the story the year 1910, he writes in Temple Tiger: 

"Accompanied by a servant and four men carrying my camp kit and 
provisions, I set out from Nainital on 10 September on my second at- 
tempt to shoot the Panar leopard. The sky was overcast when we left 
home at 4 a.m. ..." 

He even gives the time. Such precise information would have been possible only if 
he kept a diary (or record) of the days. This was not the case for the story of the Muk- 
tesar man-eater. There was no precise date given. Martin Booth was neither a charlatan 
nor a Corbett wanna-be-writer. He was just a great admirer of the man like we are, 
accepting his flaws, praising his prowess. But thanks to the environmental portal of 
India paper titled “Corbett - A fully-paid-up-imperialist” who quotes Booth criti- 
cizing Corbett on the Panar leopard, Booth had earned a bad name on the Internet. 

This is not an attempt to restore Booth’s reputation, it’s the duty of his publisher 
to do so. But to his discharge, let’s put things straight: We have established that the 
Muktesar man-eater was shot in 1909, Corbett stayed in Dabhidura Forest Bungalow 
in 1909 and the Panar Leopard was shot in September 1910. Now comes only the 
question of Corbett’s first attempt towards the Panar leopard. 

We learn in the first part of the Panar man-eater story in temple Tiger, where no 
precise dates are given, that: 

"After hunting down the tiger [Muktesar man-eater] , an account of 
which I had given, I went in pursuit of the Panar leopard." 

The only indication of a date is given a little later when Corbett comes to the 
rescue of the farmer near the Dol Dak Bungalow (now Dhaul village, 28 kms from 
Dabhidura) whose wife had been mauled by the man-eater as: 

"...single room that comprised the house, with the door open for it 
was April and very hot..." 

The month April corroborates also in the story of the Temple Tiger, again ‘hot’ is 
mentioned but this time in Dabhidura: 


224 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


"After panting up this road on a hot afternoon in April, I was 
sitting on the veranda of the Rest house [Dabhidura forest bungalow] 
drinking gallons of tea..." 

These two scenarios are connected since Corbett exits the scene of the first attempt 
of the Panar leopard when informed by the Road Overseer to come to Dabhidura for 
a supposed kill of the leopard. In both stories (Temple Tiger and Panar man-eater), 
Corbett admits leaving the Dhaul area for the 18mile (28kms) to Dabhidura, but not 
for indulging in sports hunting as Booth says but to investigate a possible kill of the 
man-eater at Dabhidura. This is in 1909, we had already concluded, April 1909 to be 
more precise as per Corbett’s writings. 

The correct time-line would therefore be as follows: 

March- April 1909 - Muktesar Man-Eater 
April 1909 - Panar man-eater first attempt 
April 1909 - Dabhidura Temple tiger 
September 1910 - Panar Leopard second attempt 

Corbett did go after the Muktesar and Panar man-eater immediately after being 
summoned by Berthoud and Stiffe respectively in 1909, this is not only an opinion, 
but strengthened by the confirmation of the Muktesar date. At least here Booth was 
wrong and for this one mistake, he made up several others to cover this one and this 
resulted with the buzz we have known from Corbett detractors, who if ever reading 
these lines, I think, would not dare or care to make the necessary amends. 



Our research group before starting the trek to Chuka and Thak along the Sarda gorge in on April 8 th , 2012. 
Left to Right: Manfred, Joseph, Kotecha, Rushika, Reyna and Priyvrat. 



Manfred leads the way. Some parts of the trek to Chuka and Thak are quite narrow and barely affords 
foothold. 





Crossing the Ladhya River between the villages Sem and Chuka at the place where the Thak man-eater and her 
cub crossed the river several times. 


Our group’s camping ground in Thak village in April 2012. 



Place where Corbett was filming tigers in the wild. Corbett referred to this place as his “jungle studio.” Corbett was 
arguably the first who made moving cine-photography of wild tigers in their natural habitat. 




Jim Corbett fishing on Naini Lake with Maggie in the 
late Colonial- India days. 


Untold picture of Corbett and the Bachelor of 
Powalgarh in another angle with Kaladhungi villagers. 




TuUaKot village where Corbett hunted the Talla Des man-eating tigress with two grown up cubs. You can clearly see 
the narrow “saddle” that Corbett mentioned many times in his story. 



Muktesar (now Mukhteshwar) village, you can see in the centre of the photo a house, which stands today on the place 
where the Badri Shah’s orchard was situated. 




Going down to the Champa River gorge, towards the ‘Champawat amphitheatre’. April 14 th 2012. 



A narrow angle view of the Champa Gorge with the river bed in middle. 




A wide angle view of the Champawat amphitheatre. The three features forming it are clearly shown. 



The river bed on the Champa gorge. The most likely place where a relatively safe descent is achievable to go 
to the mouth of the amphitheatre and to the place where the Champawat man-eater met its end. 



The ‘great flat projecting rock’ on the face of the precipitous hill, which overhangs above the river. 
This is the place where Corbett started his successful career as hunter of man-eaters in 1907. 



The overhanging rock on the precipitous rock face, where the Champawat tigress met its end. Observe 
the ledge to its left which is the only way to get to the rock. The photo is taken from the opposite side of 
the gorge, from approximately where the Tehsildar was waiting, and where Corbett had to rush to get the 
latter’s old gun, after he was out of ammunition. 




Dr Jordania on the overhanging rock where the Champawat tigress laid its final step. The rock’s upper 
surface is 6 metres long, about three metres wide and is covered with a green moss (April 19 th , 2014). 



Manfred and Joseph on the top of the overhanging rock where Champawat tigress made her last stand. 

You may notice two burning candles on the rock. As the day was April 19th (Jim Corbett’s passing away 
anniversary) these two candles were lit one for Jim Corbett, and another for the tigress who was turned into 
a dreaded man-eater by human-inflicted wounds. You can see how close the Champa River is to the rock. 



Priyvrat and Joseph measuring the Champawat man-eater’s rock upper surface. April 19 th , 2014. 



This is a 2012 photo of 10 year old Jayalukshmi Reyna, the youngest member of our party, sitting on a rock 
which Chuka and Thak villagers showed to Peter Byrne (on April 20, 1975) as the rock where Corbett killed 
the Thak man-eater. Photo of this rock with a Chuka villager, Buloka Singh, sitting in this position showing 
which side the tigress approached Corbett was published in Peter Byrne’s book “Shikari Sahib” and was the 
inspiration behind Dr Jordania’s will to explore this place. 



Rock that was shown by guides in 2007 to Manfred and 201 1 to Dr Jordania as the rock where Corbett killed 
the Thak man-eater. This rock has more inconsistencies with Corbett ‘s description than the rock shown in 
Peter Byrne’s book. 



The historic rock with a narrow ledge where Corbett called up and shot the Thak man-eater on November 30 th , 
1938. Corbett’s successful career as hunter of man-eaters ended and our idea of writing this book germinated at 
this rock. Photo of 20 th January 2011, the day when the rock was found. 



Hoshiar Singh, Dr Jordania’s guide in 201 1, is sitting awkwardly on the narrow ledge of the rock 
near village Thak, exactly in a position as Corbett describes: right foot reaching the ground, left 
hand stretched and holding on top of the top of the rock, and his “rifle” placed on a rounded top 
of the rock (on a handkerchief). Photo was taken on January 22, 2011. 



Reconstruction of the Thak man-eater’s finale showing how Corbett was sitting on the rock on November 30, 
1938, with his men and goats under his sitting place. Photo was taken on April 1 1 th , 2012. 



View from the eyes of the Thak man-eater as she approaches the rock with Corbett (here acted by Hoshiar 
Singh) ready with a heavy rifle. Photo of January 22 nd , 2011. 



The rock where Jim Corbett killed the Thak man-eater and finished his career of hunting man-eaters, with 
our affixed Memorial Plate and a candle. 





In April 2015 Dr Jordania visited the USA and spent two unforgettable days in the company of the Thak 
tigress’s full head mount with skin in Texas. On this photo he is reading the story of Thak man-eater. 



Rock at the end of the open glade, where Corbett felt the approach of the Chowgarh tigress, while he 
was trying to use loudly calling villagers to attract her. On the same day, April 1 1 th , 1930, Corbett shot 
the tigress during a dramatic encounter. 




Joseph and Kotecha in front of the rock we called the “Girdar’s rock,” arguably the best candidate for the 
“Chowgarh slate” where Corbett killed the Chowgarh tigress on April 11, 1930. The photo is taken from 
the bank of the ravine (14 th April 2014). 



Right behind the Girdar’s rock, on the same right side of the ravine, there is another huge rock, 
mentioned by Corbett as the “wall of rock.” Corbett and his men silently passed this rock, only seconds 
before meeting the crouching tigress. 




“Tewari rock,” where the Thak tigress narrowly escaped Corbett, Ibbotson and Tewari. Kotecha is climbing 
the “great slab of rock, which sloped upwards and away from the direction in which we had come” as Corbett 
was climbing on October 27 th 1938. The ascending part of the rock, going upwards by about 30-40 degrees, is 
well visible. 



Overhanging side of the rock, where the Thak tigress was resting while Corbett was climbing the 
ascending side of the rock, trying to stalk her from the top of the rock. (April 24, 2014). 




This is the side of the ‘Tewari’ rock you see first when you are following the path from Thak to KotKindri. You 
can clearly see the ascending part of the rock next to the path, where Corbett climbed in order to stalk the 
tigress. At that same moment the latter was resting on the other side of rock, under the overhanging part of 
the rock - see the previous photo (April 24, 2014) 



Tara Dutt Bhugiyal, Kulomani’s grand-nephew, showing the place (small hillock) down the Nandhour 
valley where his grand-uncle was attacked by the Chowgarh man-eating tigress. Kulomani was 
Corbett’s tall gaunt friend in the “Chowgarh Tigers” Chapter in Man-Eaters of Kumaon. 




Keshav Bhatt of Dalkhania, Naruli Devi’s 
grandson, holding a newspaper article by Joel 
Lyall reporting the attack of the Chowgarh man- 
eater on his grand mother. 



Shri Ganga Dutt Bhatt, Naruli Devi’s son, the 
occupant of the basket in the room where 
Corbett was attending to her injured mother 
who fully recovered thereafter. 



Dev Singh Bohra, nephew of the Champawat man-eater’s Dev Singh Bohra’s elder sister (April 19 th , 2014) 

last victim, Premka Devi. Photo was taken at Champawat 

bungalow, where Corbett spent the eerie ‘night of fright’, 

the night that accidentally was the last night in a short life 

of Premka Devi (April 18 th , 2014). 




Gopal Singh Bohra, the man who led us to 
the Champawat final spot in front of his 
shop in Gaudi village. He is the grandson 
of Dunghar Singh, who as a young boy 
had assisted the beat for the Champawat 
man-eater. 


The Common Hill 
Mynah, dweller of the 
Kumaon hills, is famous 
for its mimicking ability, 
including mimicking 
human voice. 


Grave of Charles Berthoud in Haldwani, 
the man who put Corbett on a career of 
hunting man-eating tigers and leopards. 
Berthoud had a short life and died in 
Haldwani on Christmas day in 1909. 
Photo courtesy of Peter Byrne from his 
1975 photo archives. 



Photo of the full head-mounts with skin of the first four man-eaters shot by Corbett. Photo was taken in yard 
of Gurney house, probably by Jean Ibbotson, an avid photographer. From Left to Right: the Champawat and 
Muktesar man-eating tigresses, followed by the Panar and Rudraprayag man-eating leopards. Photo dated 
(circa) 1926 is courtesy of Will Ibbotson, grand-son of Sir William (Ibby) Ibbotson, front his family archives. 





Dr Jordania on Corbett’s parents’ graves behind St-John-in-the- Wilderness church in the place called 
Sukha Tal cemetery in Naini Tal. Left is Christopher William, the father and right is Mary Jane. 
Vandalised and abandoned, such is the state of this British colonial cemetery as at April 2014. 



The house at the end of Sem village, where the second victim of the Thak man-eater, mother of the 
headman lived. She was killed few feet from the house. Her son watched the attack in horror, unable to 
assist in any way (April 23, 2014). 




Phungar Bungalow in Champawat. Corbett had a mysterious and frightening experience in this bungalow in 
1907, two days before he shot the Champawat man-eater. In the middle of the night he dashed out from the door 
you can see in the middle of the photo, and spent the rest of the night, and the next night, on this veranda. In a 
similar room, on the right side of the picture (you can see our party members on the veranda there) Corbett’s 
servant and friend Bahadur was staying. 



Inside the Phungar bungalow in Champawat. It was in this room where Bahadur heard noises 
coming from Corbett’s room. On the right wall of this room there is an internal door to Corbett’s 
room. Bahadur came to the veranda through the door you see on the picture. 



This is the view of the village from the Phungar bungalow some 500 metres away. Today the view of the village 
is mostly obscured because of the newly planted trees, although you can still see the village. Pay attention to the 
straight lines of the trees, indicating the late artificial planting of these trees. It was here that Corbett saw a runner 
from the village, bringing to him the news of the attack on the last victim of the Champawat man-eater, Premka 
Devi. 



Corbett’s famous Rigby-Mauser .275 in its original case, resting next to several Corbett books. Several 
of the man-eaters, described in these books, were shot by this rifle. One of the books, shown here, is 
“Jungle Stories,” the first book Corbett self-published in 1935. 




Title page of possibly the last surviving copy of 
Jungle Stories, with Corbett’s autograph on it. 


THE chowgarh TICF.Rs 


The ni«| 
**11 befi; 


p of Kii«»-rn K 


Ol MHWU tlw^t . 

e me i* marked *Uh , '''***» 

L.lo» «"■*» '■» » date; , 


-- * ", i b,.|o» ohcIi er.«* it a 

the loonl'V. ’'" ,l Ihv d A ,* Sj 

ilk'wlv I *”" 1 " 1 "( 

afivx «»p »*! p— -*.-1*,, % r cs 

IS; .ml during tl«» P-'H h“< ».n ” 1 
JjLud lo l»u; furllier, Hri.nn »l», « m , 
ami *lio dlrd sul.*e<iu.mly, hat. , 

. war d*d m it<w» nml a dnt*>. 

The fir»t cphm i* dated la-12 1955 *m 1 fo 
laal H.4-30. The distance between (lie nintb 
cne.'es. North to Sooth, i* 50 mile*. and Rut u 
\Vcat SO mile*, an area ol 1500 Mpuire tuiU «.f 
mountain* whom the »now lie* d«n in the *>«U» t 
nml the vaiWy* am scorchingly hot in 
Over thn art* the Chowgarh tiger had ««»»■*“ 
nreignnfterr.tr. Village* of varying ««. **• 
with • population of h hundred or wore, as o', 
with only a «mall family or two, are 
throughout the area. Foot poll*, beaten n* °7 
bare fret, connect tho village*. Some t , )ivn . 
path* |mm through thick forest, and when a 
rater haa rendered their (MMOge dangrnm**^^ 
village eoinmunicitt ion ia carried on »•> * ^ 
Standing on a commanding point, tn»v ’*■' » t0 
r»«ck, nr Iht root of a Imuae, a man ' '' .cbdS 
attract the nttenliim ol tho people in a 


N . and whwn the 
> ahoaled i 


» a high p»t« 


died 


First page of the Chowgarh Tigers chapter of 
Jungle Stories. 



First page of chapter “Terror that walks by night” 
(known to Corbett fans from the book “Man- 
eaters of Kumaon” as “Kanda man-eater”) in 
Jungle Stories. 



. crn »|»<l ini'- - ■ AiiKS 

aHu ll» voUryand out of « K |, t . 

J, llw hard branch had cramped every ^*21 

S My. n 7 l ""“l 1 bad .vfarSft* 

, 3J tm., •««•«.".« my clothe- m the grp „ ***■ 

I iJ,kmJ l he h"d ^'ft or. it, aim |, n<1 - • ,J| 

I nv »tilf Jimh*, that I >M nhl« to folio* >,**•*»■ 

hmlgen* h« l n " , ' ort d , ulflnc V- m»d l f '>• 
lying t*M » l tho font of « rock in anolb w 
«*t.r. Contrary to my ordors, tho m, ,i 
an the ral),* o» nearing my -hot, and th* ijT 
i,»r, followed by u anound allot, e, Ul .. ' 
duller down tho hill. Arrived ot the l»lood-rt»ii2 
trve, nt tho foot of w hich my aolt hat « u ) yjj i 
limy not unnaturally concluded I luid been c»nu4 
off by the tiger, llcnritig their shouU of along I 
rnllcd out to thotn, and again they c.inio runnifti 
down the valley, only to be brought up villi a "vy 
of di»in«y when they snw my blood stnined dutl/cv. 
IlcitMUrcd on thia print, n moment later they ««« 
crowding uround tho tiger. A atout aaplinj; *»» 
««" cut and l-ahcd to it by creeper*, ll ‘° 
with no little dilhculty, and ft great t«t*l 
ohnuting, wan carriud to the village. ^ 

Tlw ru-ooiiipniiyiiig photograph i* °> lh ® • 
•ml thu father of ono it- l-at victims, t * n 1 0, J; J j 

tho 


* muieroi ono it- i—t vieimw, *, w 

who two day, before hi* untimely doatb ^ 

1 sr'^j.y I.u f.l!,.r, Ih»» "'J rf 







The last page of the story “Terror that walks 
by night.” As you can see, there is no story 
of the brave father, and the presence of the 
photo of the brave father with the man-eater is 
indicated but however missing from this copy. 





On the 19th April 2014 the youngest members of our group, Rushika (R) and Reyna Jayalukshmi (L) put a 
‘ghendaphool’ garland round the neck of the bust of Jim Corbett in front of the Kaladhungi museum. 



Representative of our group, Shobha Oree with Marc Newton, Managing Director of Rigby and Co and 
guest author of this book, in the latter’s office in Pensbury Place, London S.W. on October 2 nd 2015. 





Shobha Oree with Corbett’s legendary Rigby-Mauser .275. 



You can clearly see the commemorative 
silver plate affixed to the butt of the rifle, 
with writings from Sir John Prescott 
Hewett, the Governor of the United 
Provinces. 


Tiger-killer gun seized 


Onford University Prew for 
more than 20 years, has been 
seized by police. 

The ride co tkc renowned 

•hue hernia die laic Col. Jiai Cat- 
belt »ho had cfcnc links with the 

our. 

Oa tw death la l«». >(«I 79. he 
lelt o In the Pre« -ho had puh 


It Ul If I VC— 10 

Ike Chaapawat i 
-hi. r, lad killed 4 


kc g*n fot ato woo hie w. 


following an anplicai. 
of a r-eaimi licence. 


... t the OLI'i London 
Ollh-e unul two year, ape when it l»n 
•vo»*hl lo Oxford ReeeMly Ha 
licence aeeied icnewal. and !h< 

"/•We *"T\'7lS^Wrc2 , sSaaod 

Vaed -oh a* irouhlc, t-a the police 
al O»ford took a raiher dim view ol 
It* hang kepi here." ud OUP group 
eoaareKi M. Don Wrh.lrr. 

And although Mr Wahtaar cald II 
-at kepi undo *lrKt i-cunly the 


l. h> So aald. 


Mr Wehtire had 
lion* lo try and gel the gun relcaicd 
• He» the gua lender rd lucleu 


We fuel don't want lo tee Hie a— 
destroyed." he aald. "I hope the* 
Wdr releeie it to the museum I third 


ding Iwo previously 
carted Job Ccheti s 
India I* being guMulwd el Hie rat at 
Otto her hy Ike OlTP 

ovf~- <H~r 


Police seize historic prize gun 


A PRIZE xu. kepi by the 
Otlord University Presa for 
more than 20 yenrs, ha* 
bren gelscd by police. 






iih% 


Newspaper clips from the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times (Sep. 30 
& Oct. 6, 1978), the dark days for Corbett’s legendary .275 Rigby- 
Mauser as its fate was uncertain. 



Jungle Stories in its original brown manila 
jacket typeset in ‘Letter Press” quality 
printing - possibly the last surviving copy. 







The last of Corbetts’ guns in India (Choti Haldwani). This single barrelled muzzle loader (SBML) 
was given by Corbett to the villagers to protect their crops against marauding pigs and deer. It’s 
this same SBML that inflicted wounds to the Pipal Pani tiger. The last custodian of the fields 
guarding tower (and the gun) when Corbett left India was Sher Singh, whose son. Trilock Singh is 
pictured here (Right). 



The old Kala Agar Forest Bungalow (erected 1925), where Corbett and the Vivians stayed (at different 
times) during the hunt of the Chowgarh man-eater. These two boys graciously guided us to this 
historic building in April 2012. 



Manfred making notes of our trip, sitting next to the Sarda (Sharda) River (now called Maha Kali). 



Rushika (L) and Reyna Jayalukshmi (R) with the 
10-pound mahseer caught at the confluence of the Ladhya 
and Sarda during the dying hours of sunlight on April 
14th 2012. This fish was Corbett’s favourite and he caught 
many of them at almost the same place as ours when 
hunting the Chuka man-eater. 


Corbett holding the record 50 -pound mahseer 
caught on fly in Lake Naini. (Photo from Jerry 
Marshall, grand-nephew of Corbett) 







14 April 2014, Meeting with Akshay Shah (Centre), the custodian of Late D.C. Kala’s manuscript of the book “Jim 
Corbett of Kumaon”, the first biography of Jim Corbett. Kamal Bisth (Right) was our tour operator for both 2012 
and 2014 trips in Kumaon. 



Peter Byrne, among the first who investigated about Corbett’s hunting sites, is still strong and full of 
adventure in his 90’s. Here he is pictured with Dr Jordania, one of the authors of this book (April 4, 2015, 
Pacific City, Oregon). 






The house that Jim Corbett built for his close friend ‘Old’ Mothi Singh in Choti Haldwani. It still stands to date. 
(09 April 2012) 



Archival photo: “General view of the north end of Naini 
Tal.” Photo was taken in 1875, the year when Corbett 
was born. 


Archival photo: “Naini Tal, Landslip in 1880.” This 
photo was taken in the wake of the devastating landslide 
of September 18th, 1880. On the right side of the 
landslide you can clearly see the trace of 1879 landslide 
in Alma Hills (where Corbett family lived during the 
1880 landslide). Both of these photos are from Macnabb 
Collection (photo by Col James Henry Erskine Reid): 
Album of views of ‘Naini Tal’ From “Oriental and India 
Office Collection,” British Library. Both photos are from 
Wikipedia, article “Nainital.” 





The attendant of the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow in April 
2014 showing us the old guestbook retrieved from the 
1925-built building. 



Surviving page of guestbook from Corbett times 
showing entry made by “Stiffe”, deputy commissioner 
of Almora in 1905-10 who asked Corbett to go after 
the Panar leopard and later deputy commissioner of 
Naini Tab 



Sketch map of Champa Gorge, Champawat 
man-eater killing site. The hunt took place 
in 1907. The rock where the tigress died is 
marked by X. 





Sketch map of Kala-Agar, the Chowgarh man-eater’s last abode on earth. Girdar’s rock, arguably the most 
convincing candidate for the “school slate,” where Corbett killed the tigress, is on the right side of the map, 
indicated by the six-point star. 




Sketch map of the village Tula Kot, where Corbett, 
blinded in one eye and deaf in one ear, plus 
suffering from excruciating pain from the huge 
hematoma in his ear and head, was hunting the 
Talla Des man-eater. 



lty deer Cumberlege 

One of our most valued possessions is the 
.275 rifle that Sir John Hen-ell, Governor of the United Pro/in- 
ces, presented to me when I shot the Champawat man-eating tiger. 
This rifle has accounted for mar\y man-eaters, and its exploits 
are mentioned a hunored times in my books. 

Jty shooting days are non over and I am wond- 
erii^j if you could find a corner in Amen House where this faith" 
ful old friend, who has saved my life on many occasions, could 
pass his well-earned retirement in peace and comfort. He would 
not feel lonely et Amen House, for he would know that he was 
among friends. 


Our kindest regards to all at Amen House. 
Yours sincerely 



Figure for Manfred Waltl’s article “Through Wounds Jim Corbett’s letter to Cumberlege, his publisher at OUP, 

and old age”: man-eating in Corbett’s time and in a offering them the .275 Rigby-Mauser to be displayed at 

recent perspective as a multi causal phenomenon.” their headquarters in London. 



Sir William Ibbotson (Left) and Lady Jean, his wife 
and their younger son (engaged with the Royal Air 
Force) after they moved to Kenya. 



The Ibbotson couple in their younger days in India. Here 
pictured during a hunting trip with camels in the North 
West Province (nowadays border between Pakistan and 
Afghanistan) - Photos from the Ibbotson family archive, 
courtesy of Will Ibbotson. 




Lakeshore of lake Naini in Naini Tal where the original (but renovated) Nanda Devi temple stands. It is at 
this place that Corbett buried the fingers of the unfortunate girl, Premka Devi, the last victim (436th) of 
the Champawat man-eater. On 19 April 2014, flowers were spread on the lake at this area after a promise 
made to Dev Singh Bohra, Premka’s nephew. 



Nanda Devi Temple as photographed by Corbett front opposite shore. Photo is courtesy of Jerry 
Marshall, grand-nephew of Corbett. 


225 


Chuka Man-Eater Killing Date 

By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

There is a well known controversy about the date of the penultimate man-eater 
killed by Jim Corbett - so called “Chuka man-eater”. Some sources claim that Cor- 
bett killed the tiger in 1937, and other sources claim that killing happened in 1938. 
D.C. Kala does not mention the killing date of Chuka man-eater at all. Martin Booth 
mentions the date 1938 without explaining any of the controversies in Corbett dates. 
Jerry Jaleel claimed Chuka tiger was killed in 1937, as it is indicated in the beginning 
of Corbett story on this hunt. Peter Byrne also took for granted Corbett’s writing that 
the Chuka tiger was killed in 1937. Peter Byrne was actually the only author who no- 
ticed discrepancy in the dates. We can all agree, that the tiger could not kill two boys 
in June 1937, if he was killed by Corbett in April 1937. 

Most importantly for all the biographers of Corbett, there is an obvious confu- 
sion in Corbett’s writings about the Chuka killing date. This chapter has been written 
to analyze these confusions, to settle the question when was the Chuka man-eater 
killed, and more widely, to raise a question about reliability of Corbett’s dates and his 
memory. 

For the beginning let us all agree that out of these two of Corbett’s sentences one 
must be wrong: 

(1) “It was early afternoon on a sweltering hot day in April 1937 that Ibbi, his wife 
Jane, and I...” (this citation comes from the Chuka man-eater story from the book 
“Temple Tiger and the More Man-eaters of Kumaon”, OUP, 1954. With this phrase 
Corbett starts describing his successful hunt for Chuka tiger). 

And here is the second phrase: 

(2) “...it was in this valley that six months earlier [in 1938] the Chuka man-eater 
had been shot.” This phrase comes from the Thak man-eater story from the book 
“Man-eaters of Kumaon” (OUP, 1944). 

We all have to agree, that these sentences cannot be both correct. So Chuka tiger 
was killed either in 1937, or in 1938. It is obvious, that Corbett made at least one 
mistake (most likely, accidentally, because of memory failure) in dating his hunt. The 
problem is to find out which of them was the mistake. Many things of the Corbett 
stories change with the change of this single date. For example, the question when 
Chuka tiger started attacking humans, how old was the surviving cub during the Thak 
man-eater hunt, or who was the “big tiger” Corbett fired at in April 1938, mentioned 
in Thak story. 

Possibly the surest way to come to the solution of this contradiction is to analyze 
both possible versions of the Chuka killing date, 1937 and 1938, and see which of 
them fits better the existing facts. 


226 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


So, what happens if the Chuka tiger was killed in 1937. 

If the real date of the kill is 1937, then we must accept that Corbett made several 
serious mistakes in his writings. These mistakes are: 

His writing that the Chuka tiger’s first unsuccessful attack was in winter 1936 must 
be wrong (and the correct date must be winter of 1935), 

His writing that the tiger killed two boys in June 1937 must be another mistake 
(must be June 1936), 

His writing that the Thak tigress killed Corbett’s buffalo in April in 1938 must be 
wrong (must be April 1937), 

His writing (just after killing the Thak tigress) that during his three visits in this 
region during the last eight months he walked many times on the Thak-Chuka path, 
always in fear and with loaded gun (for the fear of man-eaters) must be wrong. 

Corbett words in Thak story “...it was in this valley that six months earlier [in 1938] 
the Chuka man-eater had been shot” must be wrong, instead must be '18 months’ 
earlier. 

So, in case if we assume that Corbett killed Chuka tiger in 1937, there are plenty 
of serious mistakes in his stories. 

What happens if the Chuka tiger was killed in 1938 

If we assume that the tiger was killed in 1938, there will be only one contradic- 
tion in Corbett’s writings. This is Corbett mentioning “sweltering hot day was April 
of 1937” at the beginning of the Chuka story. So if this date is corrected into 1938, 
not a single other contradictions will be found in Corbett’s stories. Let me address 
the details: 

(1) All the dates of the Chuka tiger attack (including unsuccessful attacks in 1936, 
and then killing two boys in June 1937), will be correct. 

(2) Corbett mentioning killing the Chuka tiger “six month before” the October 
1938 will be correct, 

(3) Corbett mentioning several times about his hunt in April will be correct, and 
him mentioning after killing the Thak tigress that he was during the last 8 
months three times in this path, always with loaded gun and the feel of fear, 
will be correct, 

(4) Corbett writing that tigress killed a buffalo in April 1938 will be correct. 

So the only contradiction in Corbett writings to the date 1938, as the Chuka 
man-eater killing date, is the mentioning in the beginning of the Chuka story the 
April of 1937. I suggest and will try to prove that mentioning of “April of 1937” was 
a single mechanical mistake that Corbett made in writings about two related stories: 
Chuka and Thak man-eaters. 

Possibly the most important factor for us to believe that Corbett was more likely 
to make mistake in his Chuka story (than in Thak story) is that these two stories were 
written in very different periods of Corbett’s life. According to D.C.Kala, Corbett wrote 


CHUKA MAN-EATER KILLING DATE 


111 


Thak story in 1942, when he was 67. He was still in India and had fresh memories of 
the hunt that happened only 4 years before (when he was 63). As we may remember, 
Thak story was a concluding story of his first book “Man-eaters of Kumaon” (was 
submitted to publisher in August 1943, and was published in August 1944). 

Chuka story was written in 1953, ten years later of writing of the first book, and 
fifteen years after his last hunt of a man-eater. By this time Corbett was 78 years old. 
His health was shaken particularly after suffering a very serious bout of malaria in the 
jungles (which almost killed him). In 1942 Corbett spent three months with serious 
bout of tick typhus, and in 1945-46 he was so ill with malaria (plus pneumonia) that 
according to Jims dedicated sister Maggie, doctors were seriously afraid for his life. 
Although Jim recovered, his health was seriously broken after this illness. The story 
about Chuka tiger appeared in the book “Temple Tiger and More Man-eaters of Ku- 
maon” (1954). It would be natural to assume that Corbett was more likely to make 
mistakes in 1953, after serious illness, and only two years before his death, than in 
1942, when he was a still strong man, who was preparing military corps for jungle 
warfare during the Second World War. 

Another important detail, often missed by Corbett biographers, is the startling dif- 
ference in the number of precise dates mentioned in Corbett 1944 and 1953 books. For 
example, have a look how many precise dates are provided in Thak man-eater story: 

October 12, 1938, the date when the Ibbotson and Jane Ibbotsons started their trip; 

October 13th, Corbett joined Ibbotsons; 

October 23rd, Corbett and Ibbotsons arrived in village Sem. 

October 26th, a men from the village Thak is killed by the tigress, 

October 27th, Corbett, Ibbotson and Tewari follow the tigress but she escapes; 

October 28th, two mail runners escape tigress attack; 

October 29th, tigress killed a bullock from village Thak; 

November 1st, tigress escapes Corbett when drinking a water at the pool; 

November 2rd, Corbett and Ibbotson follow the tigress, and then in the dark the 
tigress follows them back to camp; 

November 3nd, Ibbotsons party leaves; 

November 7th, Corbett leaves his camp for a break; 

November 12th, tigress kills a man in Thak (the last victim); 

November 22nd, Corbett leaves Kaladhungi for the second hunting trip; 

November 24th, in the morning Corbett arrives to Chuka for second hunting trip. 
Thak is deserted and tigress follows Corbett unseen; 

November 25h, Corbett ties two buffaloes to bait the tigress; 

November 26th, Thak villagers ask Corbett to accompany them to the deserted 
village; 

November 28th, while sitting on a kill at a killed and partially eaten caw, Corbett 
hears mysterious human scream from the deserted Thak village; 


228 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


November 29th, Corbett asks Thak headman about the scream of the tigress hu- 
man victim on November 12th; Tigress comes to worker’s place roaring and coves 
them into silence; 

November 30th, Corbett calls up and shots the tigress about 6.00 pm. (This was 
the last day of Corbett’s last hunt after a man-eater.) 

As we can see, the whole story is filled with precise dates. Now let us have a look to 
see how many precise dates are mentioned in the Chuka man-eater story. The answer 
is very precise: none. There is not a single event that is precisely dated by Corbett. 
Even the date of killing the Chuka man-eater from the ficus tree is not precisely dated. 

Chuka and Thak tigers were killed very close to each other, so it might seem hard 
to explain why Corbett remembered Thak dates so well, and had no memory of any 
dates of Chuka tiger hunt. The obvious explanation is that Corbett wrote these two 
storied 1 1 years apart, and his memory was most likely failing two years before his 
death, when he was writing a Chuka story. Of course, when writing Chuka story, Cor- 
bett could have easily make a guess and write that the tiger was killed, for example, the 
April 25, and no one would have ever find out if this was not correct. But for a person 
with such integrity as Corbett this was totally unacceptable. As he did not remember 
the precise date by the time he was writing a story in 1953, he did not start guessing 
and making up the date of killing of his penultimate man-eater. Unfortunately, unlike 
some of fellow humans, Corbett never had a habit of writing diaries. 

We know that Corbett received some criticicm from fellow tiger hunters who were 
accusing him of dramatizing details of his hunt, but most likely this accusation came 
from a general belief that hunters always make up details to dramatize the stories of 
their hunts. Corbett was very different from most of hunters, and did not possess 
the “hunter virus” of dramatizing of hunting stories. There are many indications that 
Corbett was writing his stories without a slightest dramatization of the real events, and 
not a single person was able to prove without any reasonable doubt that something 
was obviously made up by Corbett. 

Corbett had another problem. Some of the details of his hunts were so incredible 
that he was reluctant to tell them as he knew he would be accused of dramatizing. 
Instead of taking away the details that could have caused suspicion of the readers, he 
was delaying the release of these stories. Story of Tala Desh tiger is one of such in- 
credible stories, when sick, partly deafened and half blinded Corbett, instead of being 
in a hospital, was following a man-eater tiger at night. 

Sorry for this deviation. I mentioned this just to propose, that all the possible 
mistakes that a readers might find in Corbett stories, are there not from his desire to 
cover the truth, or dramatize the real events, but because of his memory failings. The 
mistake with the Chuka killing year (1937 instead of correct 1938) was such a mistake. 
It is quite evident that Corbett memory was not as sharp in 1953, as it was in 1943. 


CHUKA MAN-EATER KILLING DATE 


229 


As a matter of fact, Corbett has very few precise dates of his hunts in his books, 
even the dates some of his most memorable hunts are not clear, like the date of killing 
of the Champawat tigress, the most prolific man-eater in recorded human history. 
Actually, only killing of three of his man-eaters are dated precisely in his books: (1) 
Thak tigress, (3) Rudraprayag leopard, and (3) Chowgarh tigress. 

Thak tigress, killed on November 30th, 1938, was the most recent kill by the time 
of writing a story about it and the story is undoubtedly the by far the most detailed 
story out of all Corbett writings. 

Rudraprayag leopard was killed on the night of May 1st -2nd, 1926. This was by far 
the best known man-eater killed by Corbett. It was granted an unprecedented media 
coverage and was even discussed in British Parliament. This was the only man-eater 
that merited a separate book from Corbett. 

Chowgarh tigress killing date is April 11th, 1930. How could this date survive 
so well in Corbett memory? From the story we know that Corbett had a map of the 
region with the precise dates and the names of villages of all reported kills on it. After 
killing the tigress, Corbett added a final note on the map, indicating the place and 
date of killing. 

Another reason for remembering Rudraprayag and Chowgarh man-eater hunts 
was that they were the most difficult hunts that lasted many months, and the dates 
stayed in Corbett memory better that many other hunts. 

Taking into attention the incredibly detailed descriptions of the many hunting 
scenes it might seem unbelievable that Corbett could remember such vivid details of 
the hunt and not remember the dates of the kills of the man-eaters, but in fact this is 
quite natural for human memory. Many of us might have incredibly detailed memory 
of some emotional moments of our lives without the memory of the precise dates. 
It is certainly pity that a person with such an incredible life and adventures did not 
have a diary 30 . 

Apart from the dates, there are some other details of Chuka and Thak story that 
must be clarified as well. 

Who was the "big tiger”? 

Corbett mentions in Thak story that he shot at a “big tiger” in April 1938. Was the 
“big tiger” Corbett mentions the Chuka tiger? Or it was another, normal (non-man- 
eater) tiger that Corbett hunted for trophy in 1938? 

Let us read Corbett precise words on this account (from Thak story): 

“. . . into the ravine in which I had fired at and missed the big tiger in April.” 


30 


For another confirmation that Chuka tiger was killed in 1938, see the letter written by Ibbotson on 
January 13 th , 1939. The letter text is presented to the wider audience for the first time in this book. 
The original of the letter is kept in the National Archives of India. 


230 


I believe Corbett was referring to Chuka man-eater, but there can be a doubt that 
Corbett could not had been referring to the Chuka tiger as he was only referring to 
the tigers as “big” if the tiger was more than 10 feet long. Also, he could have simply 
mentioned that it was a Chuka man-eater. 

Now, if we check the end of the Chuka tiger story, when Corbett speaks about the 
size of Chuka tiger, he refers to Chuka man-eater as “big male”. His precise words are 
“he was a fine big male in the prime of his life and in perfect condition, and would 
have measured - if we had had anything to measure him with - nine feet six inches 
between pegs, or nine feet ten over the curves”. Not quite 10 feet, I agree, but close, and 
most importantly, the word “big male” to the Chuka tiger was used by Corbett himself. 

Apart from the size, let us pay attention, that when Corbett mentions “big tiger” 
in the story, he mentions him firing and missing his shot to this “big tiger” in April in 
a ravine. If we check the story of Chuka man-eater, we will easily find the place where 
Corbett writes about shooting at the man-eater in April in a ravine, and describes 
how his bullet missed the tiger. According to Corbett words, bullet “went through 
the ruff on his [Chuka man-eater’s] neck and striking a rock splintered back, making 
him spring straight up into the air . . Later he examined the place and confirmed he 
missed the tiger and that there was no blood, and that he only found tiger hair shaved 
from his neck. So, everything is pointing that Corbett mentioning of the “big tiger” 
was the Chuka tiger: the name “big tiger” used by Corbett, time - in April, place - in 
ravine, and the occasion - missing his shot. 

So I believe there is no need to suggest that Corbett went to this region specially 
to hunt a normal, non-man-eater “big” tiger as a trophy, in April 1938. Besides, we 
know that Corbett completely abandoned trophy hunting of tigers in the 1930s. 

HOW OLD WAS THE YOUNG MALE TIGER? 

Another important topic of Chuka and Thak stories is how old was the living cub 
Corbett mentions in Thak story - about 9-10 month old (if born in 1938), or about 
20-21 month old (of born in 1937). We know that Corbett saw two cubs of the fu- 
ture Thak man-eating tigress (who was the mate of the Chuka tiger) first time when 
hunting the Chuka tiger, and later he saw the pugmarks of one of the surviving cubs 
when hunting the Thak tigress. 

If Chuka tiger was killed in 1937 and Corbett saw the tigress with her cubs in April 

1937, in November 1938 the young male tiger must have been about 21-22 months old. 

If Chuka tiger was killed in 1938 and Corbett saw the tigress with cubs in April 

1938, in November 1938 the young male tiger must be about 9-10 months old. 

Now, let us pay attention how Corbett refers to the young tiger. In one place he 

refers to the cub as “young male tiger”, but most importantly, in another place he 
writes “small male tiger crossed and recrossed the Ladhya many times during the 
past week...” I think the word “small male tiger” can not be said about a male tiger 


CHUKA MAN-EATER KILLING DATE 


231 


that is 21-22 months old. At this age male tigers are larger than fully grown female 
tigers. Corbett would never proposed this was a “small male tiger” if this was 21-22 
months old male tiger. 

So the words “small male tiger” also indicates that the Chuka killing date was 1938 
and the abandoned cub was about 9-10 months old. 

Possibly more difficult problem is why the tigress was in heat, and was calling for 
a mate in October-November 1938, if she still had a 9-10 months old cub. 

We know that tigresses sometimes abandon their cubs, so possibly the Thak ti- 
gress was another “bad mother”, who abandoned her cub? I believe there is a strong 
possibility that the Thak tigress undergone a character change from April to October. 
We know that the tigress was a good mother when Corbett saw her with cubs for 
the first time in April. She was teaching her cubs a proper behaviour of tigers in the 
wild. After April the tigress undergone life-changing stresses: she was twice wounded, 
one of her cubs died (possibly while she was incapacitated from hunting her natural 
prey), and finally she became a man-eater, totally fearless of humans, cowing into 
silence even thousands of workers shouting at her. So I believe it would be natural 
to conclude that under these stresses the tigress behaviour changed and she actually 
abandoned her cub. 

Could the cub survive? According to George Schaller 31 , tiger cubs show first el- 
ements of independence at 6.5 months old. Males start hunting earlier than females. 
11 month male cub “became semi-independent and occasionally begun to hunt on 
his own” (Schaller, 1984:270). Schaller also cites Sanderson (1912) who mentions two 
cubs, born in 1875 November. They started hunting in June 1876, 7 months old, al- 
though stayed with mother (Schaller, 1984:270). Schaller (1984:234) also writes that 
males become independent earlier and are often killed as they are not very skilled 
hunters yet. 

Most likely the 10 months old cub of the Thak tigress, left on his own, was surviv- 
ing by scavenging, and there is a very little chance he would survive after November 
30th when the troubled tigress was finally put at rest by Corbett. 

So after studying the problem of Chuka tiger killing date in detail, I came to the 
following conclusions: 

killing of Chuka tiger happened in April of 1938, 

the “big tiger” Corbett mentions in Thak story was the Chuka man-eater, 

the young male cub was most likely the 9-10 months old cub, one of the cubs 
that Corbett saw with the future Thak man-eater in April 1938 when he was hunting 
Chuka tiger. 

Because of Corbett mentioning of the “sweltering hot day in April 1937”, the other 
mistake came out, like the writing under the Chuka mounted head of the date “1937”, 

31 Schaller, George B. (1984). The Deer and the Tiger (Midway Reprint). Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press. 


232 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


The existing writing in Forest department documents in 1937 must be more about 
killing two boys by the Chuka man-eater rather than Corbett killing the man-eater, 

The idea that Corbett was killing other tigers just for trophy in 1938, after estab- 
lishing the first protected areas for the tigers (that became later Corbett Park) is wrong. 

At the end, let us have a look at Corbett writing at the end of Thak story After 
killing the Thak tigress on November 30th, 1938, unarmed Corbett, very happy be- 
cause of the sudden cease of the fear connected to the man-eater, writes: 

"In my three visits to Chuka during the past eight months I had 
been along this path many times by day and always with a loaded ri- 
fle in my hands, and now I was stumbling down in the dark, unarmed, 
my only anxiety being to avoid a fall. If the greatest happiness one 
can experience is the sudden cessation of great pain, then the sec- 
ond greatest happiness is undoubtedly the sudden cessation of great 
fear . " 

What does there words mean? I think from these words we can conclude that: 

• Corbett’s three visits (in eight months, all in 1938) that he mentions was to 
kill the two of his last man-eaters, Chuka and Thak tigers. Chuka needed one 
visit (in April), and Thak needed two visits (October and November, together 
three visits). It was because of the presence of the man-eaters that he had the 
“feel of fear” until this moment, and that’s why he had to walk with the “loaded 
gun” all the time. 

• In case if the first of these three visits, mentioned by Corbett, was for another, 
non-man-eater tiger, mentioned as “big tiger”, then it is impossible to under- 
stand fis referring to the feeling of fear during all these three visits, as Corbett 
was never afraid to walk jungles if there were only “normal” tigers, as he knew 
non-man-eaters do not stalk and attack people. 

One additional point. There is another, very small contradiction between Chuka 
and Thak stories. Corbett wrote in a Thak story about the tigress killing one of his 
buffaloes in April (the one that she fed to her small cubs as Corbett watched them from 
a tree). In Chuka story he mentions the same kill not as “buffalo” but as a “cow”. Of 
course, this is not an important mistake, but this still confirms that Corbett’s memory 
was not 100% in his later years. I believe buffalo must be correct, as Thak story was 
written only 3-4 years later after the events described, and Chuka story was written 
13-14 years later. 

And finally one methodologically important claim: I would suggest, that if there 
are any contradictions found between the details of the two Corbett books, “Man-eater 
of Kumaon” (1944), and the “Temple Tiger and More Man-eaters of Kumaon” (1954), 
we should assume that it is most likely that the mistakes were made by Corbett in 
his book “Temple Tiger and More Man-eaters of Kumaon”, as this book was written 
much later, and after his devastating illness, so in his later years Corbett’s memory 
most likely was not as sharp as before. 


CHUKA MAN-EATER KILLING DATE 


233 


So I am coming to the conclusion that the biggest mistake Corbett made in his 
writings about the Chuka man-eater was that he wrote about a “sweltering hot day in 
April 1937”, as the start of his hunt for Chuka man-eater. If we correct this one single 
date, 1937 into 1938, everything falls on its place. 

Therefore, we can finally correct the existing controversy in the text of the book 
“Temple Tiger and More Man-eater of Kumaon:” Chuka man-eater was killed in April 
1938. 

According to the currently published text by the Oxford University Press, although 
the man-eater was killed in April of 1937, the tiger still miraculously managed to kill 
two boys in June of 1937. 1 suggest it will be a sensible idea for the Oxford University 
Press to add a note from an editor about the correct killing date of the Chuka man-eat- 
ing tiger in the continuing new publications of Corbetts classic books. 


234 


The bear or the tiger? Norah Vivian controversy 

By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

Corbett biographers, although sharing deep admiration towards Jim Corbett, still 
display quite different attitudes towards him. D.C. Kala had a full admiration for Cor- 
bett. He is not indicating any doubts in the credibility of Corbett writings, although 
he did mention some possible mistakes in the writings. Jerry Jaleel went even further 
in unconditionally trusting Corbett, not doubting even when the facts were clearly 
contradicting Corbett writings (for example, the date of killing of Chuka man-eater). 
Peter Byrne, who visited probably more Corbett hunting sites than any other Corbett 
biographer, expressed profound admiration for his integrity. Even in those cases when 
Byrne presented different versions of the events in his book (for example, killing of the 
Thak tigress), he does not expressly accuse Corbett of dramatising events. 

Arguably the most direct criticisms towards the credibility of Corbett writings 
(and even his character) came from Martin Booth, who criticised Corbett for many 
discrepancies in his writings, and in some cases accused Corbett for deliberately 
changing details of his stories in order to make them more interesting to the readers. 
Here we are going to discuss one of such cases, when Booth used the memoir from 
Norah Vivian, Jim Corbetts good friend and fellow shikari (hunter), about the details 
of chasing the Chowgarh man- eater. 

These are Norah Vivians words told to Martin Booth in 1984 (from Booth, 1986: 
246): 

‘We got there (Kala Agar) and were resting in camp - my husband was shaving - 
when there were great shouts outside. A woman had just been taken from a party of 
grasscutters a few hundred yards up the hill. She was up a rhododendron tree, cutting 
fodder branches, about six feet up. The tigress crept up and swept her legs from under 
her, knocking her down and crushed her skull. She was a young girl or woman, and 
was lying in grass in the open. My husband got permission - religious reasons - to 
sit up over the kill. He sat in a nearby tree for the rest of that day and night. Nothing. 
At 5am down, I walked to him with a cocked rifle. Got him down. We sent a note to 
Jim. The next night we sat up again over a young bullock - the woman was taken for 
her funeral. We saw a bear, not the tiger - we were not mistaken in this as Jim writes’ 
She added, ‘He was wrong in the story - it makes a better tale, doesn’t it?” 

Booth comment follows: ’’Norah Vivian was a good friend of both Jim and Maggie 
and her comments are not malicious. Indeed, when Jim finally shot the tigress on the 
afternoon of 1 1 April, he cut out from the tigress’s neck, when skinning her, one of the 
‘lucky’ floating bones that Indians regard as the ultimate talisman against tiger attack 
and, having this mounted in gold, gave it to Norah some time later as a scarf pin” . . 

. “What was more, Norah Vivian was an expert shikari herself and a crack shot who 


THE BEAR OR THE TIGER ? NORAH VIVIAN CONTROVERSY 


235 


certainly knew a bear from a tiger. But Jim wrote in his story: ‘There was no moon, 
and just as daylight was fading out and nearby objects becoming indistinct, they first 
heard, and then saw, an animal coming up to the kill which in the uncertain light, they 
mistook for a bear.” Booth gives one more comment to put a fair dose of suspicion in 
Corbetts words: “Jim did not arrive until forty-eight hours later so how could he have 
assessed accurately the spoor marks of a bear on such ground?” 

Norah Vivian continued: “The details and dates in his stories are sometimes ques- 
tionable. Even the Chowgarh tigress story is not exactly as it was. He was not careful 
over some details.’ 

This is a quite big statement that goes not only against of Corbett writings, but his 
integrity as well. We have already discussed in detail the controversy that surrounds 
the final meeting scene with the Chowgarh man-eater (see a separate chapter on this 
topic in this book). We came to the conclusion that the central difference between the 
Corbetts letter to Maggie (which is considered the true description of events), written 
on the same day of the hunt, and the story, written several years later, was the shooting 
scene. According to letter, Corbett shot the tigress “in a heartbeat”, and according to 
the story, Corbett turned extremely slowly in order not to alert the tigress. Booth (and 
generally Corbett critics) fail to take into account, that when writing a letter to his 
sister, Corbett might not wanted to reveal to his only living family member the scariest 
detail of the hunt, that he was at a full mercy of a man-eater. Critics are ready to believe 
that in that critical moment Corbett, who found himself standing with his back to the 
tigress, with his rifle pointing to the other direction, managed in a split second turn 
around (do not forget - without using his left hand!), and shoot the tigress who was 
ready to jump and was less than three metres away. And above all, according to Booth 
and other Corbett critics, for some reason, Corbett decided to conceal his amazing 
hunting feat from the readers. But let us go back to “bear vs. tiger” controversy. 

Booth’s comment, where he tries to clear up Corbett’s name, sounds possibly even 
more offensive than the initial allegations: “Jim was not a charlatan. He did not seek 
glory nor to be what he was not. He was simply an expert and courageous hunter 
turned conservator turned popular author who, determined to give his readers their 
money’s worth with a modicum of conservationist evangelising, twisted just a few 
little facts that his memory had already partially corrupted. His books are none the 
worse for it and, as they imply, he was undoubtedly regarded by many, from humble 
villagers to District Commissioners like Ham Vivian, as the Authority on the hunting 
of Indian big game in the mountains of the north.” 

The words “Jim was not a charlatan” to Jim Corbett fans might sound as offensive, 
as the statement that he “twisted just a few little facts” in order “to give his readers 
their money’s worth.” It is true, that Corbett said that he tried to give the readers their 
money’s worth, but he said these words not to seek indulgencies for “twisting a few 
little facts” but to explain why he was always so “maddeningly detailed” (D.C. Kala) 


236 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


in all his descriptions. Yes, as a human, Corbett did have memory failures, and there 
are clear facts for this claim. Besides, we should not forget that in his private letter to 
Maggie he most likely tried to spare his sister from some of the scariest moments of 
his hunting, but this by no means gives us grounds to claim that he was deliberately 
changing the true and known to him facts in order to make his stories a better read. 

So what can we say in the case of Norah Vivian controversy? 

According to Vivian’s words, Jim was wrong in asserting that that night, in a fading 
light, they mistook a tiger for a bear. Vivian was sure they made no mistake and the 
animal that appeared in darkness was indeed a bear. Jim, after examination the scene 
(two days later), came to conclusion that not bear, but tiger came that night to the kill. 

Of course, we will never know for 100% whether it was a bear or a tiger. I can 
accept that Corbett might make a mistake, when he examined the scene two days 
later. But it is certainly very difficult to accept that Corbett knew it was a bear, and in 
order to “make a better story” he deliberately twisted facts. Let us make no mistake, 
that kind of “twisting facts” would not be a simple and harmless “hunter’s tale” that 
we know too well from many hunters. Changing such a detail, particularly a deliberate 
change, would require some degree of internal corruption on Jim’s side, and for sure, 
he would know that with this lie he would make his dear friends quite upset. 

What most likely happened was that Vivians were sure the animal they saw was a 
bear. Jim, after examined the scene, came to the conclusion that the animal was a tiger. 
Jim and Vivians probably did not talk about this, but if they did, they probably did not 
agree with each other (Booth does not mention if Vivians discussed this disagreement 
with Jim). Who was right, Vivians in the fading light seeing a bear, or Corbett, finding 
tiger pugmarks at the scene 48 hours later, is difficult to say. Booth is absolutely right 
when he claims, that Vivian’s were great hunters and crack shots, and Corbett also 
mentions this fact several times. But at the same time it is also an undeniable fact, 
that Corbett’s expertise as a hunter was a notch higher. This was the reason Vivians 
send a note for Corbett after the unsuccessful night vigil above the human kill. Corbett 
arrived, and in about two weeks the man-eater was dead. 

As the readers might have already guessed, it was not our intention to judge, who 
was right and who was wrong in recognising the animal that appeared in the fading 
light in Kala Agar on March 22, 1930. We have no conclusion for that question. But 
we do have a conclusion we can propose with full certainty, that Jim Corbett, as we 
know him, and as millions of readers and simple Indians know him, would have 
never twisted the details of his hunt deliberately in order to make it a better tale, and 
particularly on the expense of showing his dear friends in a bad light. 


237 


Meeting with Jungle Stories - The Holy Grail for 

Corbett fans 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Now for you, my reader, assiduous Corbett fan that you are, let me count you 
the story of how a representative of our group (not a group member though) made 
contact with Jungle Stories, the very first book by Corbett, published privately for a 
hundred copies only. What is thought to be one of the very last surviving copies of 
this book is under the care of Marc Newton now, and the story of its acquisition by a 
great Corbett fan like Marc is already given to you in this book. 

I had established contact with Marc Newton just before the CLA game fair in July 
2015 in connection with the re-surfacing of Corbetts .275 Rigby Mauser rifle. At that 
time, he did not have the book yet. It’s only when he returned to London after a week 
that he, perhaps not realising what shock he was about to bring to me, dropped me in 
a single line: “We have also been able to obtain a copy of Jungle Stories by Jim Corbett” 
in an email where he was telling me that the Corbett rifle is back in his London office 
and that it is available for inspection. 

I would just like to give an account for the reason of my being greatly shocked 
at that news before proceeding with how I handled the news. I became aware of the 
book “Jungle Stories” late in the 1990’s when I read D.C. Kala’s and Martin Booth’s 
Corbett biography in an attempt to reconcile information in both of them. This was 
at the start of my career as researcher in ‘Corbett Studies’, a term which had not been 
coined yet at that time. I always thought that if this book would have been accessed, 
then many discrepancies concerning Corbett’s stories, a list of which I had already 
made at that time, would have been solved. My reason for that is I always thought that 
Jungle Stories contained materials that are written just the way they were by Corbett 
and that Man-Eaters of Kumaon following it nine years later had some editions made 
by the publishers. In 2005, I wrote to both Booth and Kala through their respective 
publishers to enquire them about their source in quoting Jungle Stories in their books. 
Only Kala responded and the reason why Booth (who gave much more information 
on Jungle Stories) did not was that he was dead in 2004. 

I owe Kala very much for the knowledge I have of Corbett Studies nowadays and 
he was kind enough to disclose that even searching in many countries and meeting 
direct and indirect relatives of Corbett, yielded null results for finding the book. All 
that he had been able to obtain was a photographic plate of the inside front page of 
one such copy where it is autographed by Corbett in this legendary phrase: “Don’t be 
critical. A jungli can only tell his stories in jungle language” (‘Jungli’ means a denizen 
of the jungles, to whom Corbett was alluding himself to.) 


238 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Kala had obtained this photograph with the permission of the Forest Department 
of Uttarakhand (formerly part of Uttar Pradesh state) who manages the Corbett muse- 
um in his former house of Kaladhungi. According to Kala, it came from the collection 
of the late Jagat Singh Negi’s family who donated personal letters from Corbett as 
well to the museum. Therefore, most probably, Negi received that autographed copy 
of Jungle Stories from Corbett in 1935 and forty years later during the celebration of 
Corbett’s centenary (1975), his family only gave a photo of the inside front page to 
the museum. 

Therefore there is still the probability that a copy of Jungle Stories is in India, but 
even Jagat Sing’s son who Kala met in the 1970’s is no more and the remaining family 
was not in Naini Tal in 2012. So, the last resort was that Corbett left a copy in his other 
house in Naini Tal. Gurney house as it is called was visited in 2012 and what Manfred 
and I suspected to be a copy of Jungle Stories in Corbett’s original book collection 
given to the Verma couple turned out to be a Jack London hardback with the J and L 
only remaining on the spine of the jacket. This was a huge disappointment for us and 
I won’t give you too many other instances of disappointment perhaps one that could 
have caused us to travel to the USA in search of a mythical copy! 

Therefore, when Marc Newton subsequently phoned me to tell that indeed that 
copy is lying a few feet from him while he was talking to me. The shock subsequent 
from Marc’s email and phone call earned me several sleepless nights! I imagined, 
during those nights, already flying there and meeting Marc and the book and discover- 
ing for example: the extreme rarest photos of the Kanda man-eater and the Chowgarh 
tigress. But when our morning arrived on the second or 3rd day, I came down to earth 
in a sudden drop. My students were at a crucial phase just before taking their end of 
year exams; I could not let them down. 

I duly informed the other members of our Corbett group about the situation. Dr 
Jordania then asked Manfred who lives closest to London (from Munich, Germany) to 
have a go at it, but even Manfred couldn’t. But there was a last resort, I thought of my 
niece Rebecca who lives with my mum in the UK at Leicester in the Midlands (some 
300 km to London) and who had in the past done some research for me on Corbett 
in the UK. She could at least go there on my behalf and make photo scans for me. 

Marc and my Corbett group were then informed about the possible meeting of 
Rebecca with Jungle Stories. Marc, though very busy, proposed to host that meeting 
in his London office. But at times, things do not turn out so well. After a couple of 
re -scheduling, there arrived a final date of the 2nd of October 2015. Not a simple 
meeting, but one with Corbett’s treasured .275 rifle and the probably last surviving 
copy of his very first book. But fate wanted to have it on its own way. Rebecca fell very 
ill on the eve of the meeting and it was not easy to shoulder the responsibility of yet 
another failure towards my Corbett group members or towards my now good friend 


MEETING WITH JUNGLE STORIES - THE HOLY GRAIL FOR CORBETT FANS 


239 


Marc Newton. But there was to be last saviours... my mum and her heroic elderly 
friends. That’s how exactly “Corbett Magic” operated in its own way: 

First of all, let me introduce you to my mum: ‘Shobha OREE’ a simple Indian 
woman but who knows my love for Corbett and who bought me my first Corbett 
book, ever since I liked the Chowgarh tigers chapter from my English school text 
book nearly four decades earlier. 

When Rebecca fell ill on the 1st October evening (eve of the meeting) she did not 
tell me (because she did not want to worry me) and took the courageous decision to 
go by herself, driving to London from Leicester on the 4hour route. She herself does 
not have a sound health and to accompany her she told an elderly friend of hers, Jo- 
sephine Spain (affectionately called Jo by her friends) and her husband Flarry Spain 
(aged over 80 years) to accompany her to “help accomplish the boyhood dream of my 
son”. Elderly Harry had to take over the driving on the highway because Shobha was 
panicking on the highway when big trucks were overtaking her. 

On that very hectic journey Harry, who had, in his younger days, worked in Lon- 
don, brought the party safely to South West London at Pensbury place. Struggling 
to find a parking place, he suggested Jo and Shobha to alight on the street where the 
Rigby office is due to be found and said to them: “Don’t miss the 1pm appointment, 
I’ll see you in a few moments”. Shobha and Jo, struggled to find their way, but managed 
after some minutes to reach the Rigby office. Having met, Miss Sacha Wadey (she is an 
important part of the story) an office manager at Rigby, she settled them comfortably 
while they waited for Harry to arrive. Harry managed his way after a quarter of an 
hour and Sacha finding him catching his breath with difficulty offered him a cup of 
coffee. While Jo also was offered similar treat, the elderly couple was invited to relax 
in Rigby’s comfortable office lounge while Shobha would have her meeting with Marc 
and the Corbett treasures. 

Shobha and Sacha first went to visit the workshop. It was during this visit that 
Shobha told Sacha that Rebecca who was due to come and take photos. But as she 
was not there now she was worried if she could use the camera with the same prowess 
than Rebecca. Sacha immediately re-assured her telling that she knows the kind of 
apparatus shown and she will do the required photos, very commendable indeed on 
her part. 

Then they met Marc who guided them through the workshop and visited the Rigby 
archives. In a particular room there was an old rifle case and a few books in front of 
it. One of these books was Jungle Stories and three others were original versions of 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon, My India and the Temple Tiger. The rifle was Corbett’s famous 
.275, given to him for killing his first man-eater, the famous Champawat man-eating 
tiger. Marc helped them with the rifle case and removed the Corbett>s .275 rifle and 
several pictures of it were taken by Sacha. There was even a leopard skull there, not a 
man-eater though, but a model. 


240 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Marc then told them to continue the photo session while he attended other urgent 
work. Then they proceeded with Jungle Stories. The eleven pages of the Chapter “The 
Terror that walks by Night” was photographed in good light, but immediately, a prob- 
lem appeared since the Jungle Stories copy was an old one and it was opening with 
difficulty since the old stitched binding of the book started to make cracking sounds 
when further pages were turned. 

I had asked to find photos in the book - there were none, though the ending of 
the “Terror that Walks by Night” ending suggested a photo. Marc then appeared when 
Sacha was taking photos of the Chowgarh Tigers chapter. Seeing that the book might 
get irreversible damage in the process, Marc told Sacha to stop because the book was 
not his property and had been bought at a very high price by a friend of his. In all 16 
pages of the book had been photographed excluding its cover. 

Marc advised that other means which were out of reach at that time should be 
employed to safeguard the book while undergoing a page by page photo session. Sacha 
felt sorry that she could not have found a better method to proceed further but what 
she could not know at that time is that all Corbett fans would understand. Sachas 
very commendable efforts would have gone in vain did she not manage to get good 
readable photos - she did however (readers can see the title paper with Corbett writing 
on it and two pages from the book - the first and the last pages of the story “Terror 
that Walks by Night” - to Corbett fans this story is known as “Kanda Man-Eater”). 

Shobha then said to Sacha that she was sure her son would understand why they 
could not have proceeded further. Marc then gave a book as gift to my mum. This 
book is about history of Rigby rifles but the detailed particulars of which I have not yet 
obtained. My mum who video-called with me that afternoon said that it contains pho- 
tos of Corbett and some text about him in a chapter of the book called ‘Carpet Sahib’. 

Sacha then accepted a photo with Shobha and took pictures of her holding Cor- 
bett’s .275 Rigby Mauser and one with Marc Newton as well. Both Shobha and Sacha 
thought that I would have been deceived by what would have looked like a half-heart- 
ed attempt, but it would not be the case. I have already read the 16 pages of the two 
chapters, and I’ve seen that there’s not much a difference with Man-Eaters of Kumaon. 
The only difference it contained is that the ending of “The Terror that walks by Night” 
chapter does not contain the story of the brave father and his son, a new recruit in 
the Garhwal Regiment, victim of the man-eater nor the promise made by Corbett to 
Garhwal villagers nor the petition letter sent to Corbett by the latter, in comparison 
with the Kanda man-eater chapter in Man-Eaters of Kumaon. 

I would have loved to have all photo scans of the Jungle Stories book, but I remain 
confident that Marc will sort it out sooner or later for Corbett fans around the world 
to feast their eyes on it. In all the trio had spent some 45 minutes in the Rigby office 
in London and it was with good feelings that Shobha left Sacha good-bye, a very warm 
person and kind lady indeed. A world of good done to Corbett fans thanks to Harry, 
Jo, Sacha, Shobha and Marc Newton. 


241 


Was a tiger subspecies really named after Jim 

Corbett? 


By JOSEPH JORDANIA 

It is a well-known fact among Corbett fans and biographers that a tiger subspecies 
was named after him in 1968. Most of the available sources mention this fact, and 
there had never been any suspicion in the reality of this claim. 

However, according to the available information, coming from students of the 
Tejpur University of Assam (India), during the lectures they are taught that the name 
“panthera tigris corbetti,” attributed to the Indochinese subspecies of the tiger, refers 
not to the hunter/ author Jim Corbett, but to a researcher from the Natural History 
division of the British Museum, G.B. Corbet, a colleague of Dr Vratislav Mazak. It 
was Mazak who is credited with the research and naming of the new subspecies of 
the tiger. Tejpur University lecturers apparently teach that Corbett’s first biographer, 
D.C. Kala made a big mistake attributing the naming of the “panther tigris corbetti” 
to Jim Corbett, and after this the same mistake was later repeated without checking 
facts by all the other sources. This small chapter is written to clear up this controversy. 

Let us first of all find out, who is G.B. Corbet, and could the tiger subspecies be 
named after him? 

His full Name is Gordon Barclay Corbet (not Corbett with two “tt” ) . He is an 
expert on mammals, had been working for a long time at the British Museum of 
Natural History. He has written number of books, both popular-science and scholarly 
publications. Among his books are: 

“Finding and identifying mammals in Britain,” Natural History Museum Publica- 
tions. Revised edition came out in December 1975. 

“The Mammals of the Palaearctic Region: A Taxonomic Review,” published again 
by the British Museum (Natural History), on 1st January 1978 (314 pages), publishers 
is Cornell University Press. 

“A World List of Mammalian Species” British Museum (Natural History), 1991 - 
Mammals (243 pages), Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3 edition came out in April 
4, 1991. This is by far not the full list of the publications of Gordon Barclay Corbet. 

As we can see, Gordon Corbet “fits the profile” of a scholar, who contributed to 
the research of the sphere of the mammalia, and as a matter of fact, the famous 1968 
article of Mazak makes one of the first references to the publication of Gordon Corbet. 
Therefore, Gordon Corbet was a professional biologist, unlike Jim Corbett, who has 
never gone to the University, never obtained any scholarly degrees (including famed 
PhD), and has never published any scholarly articles in any of the peer-reviewed 
biological journals. At least to some readers a professional biologist Gordon Corbet 


242 


BY JOSEPH JORDANIA 


might seem a more convincing candidate for the highest honour of naming an animal 
species after him, that Jim Corbett, who obtained his knowledge from simply spending 
decades in Indian jungles, without any formal education. 

So which of these two Corbett’s was honoured by naming one of the most charis- 
matic animal subspecies after him, professional expert of mammalian species Gordon 
Corbet, or a hunter-turned-conservationist-turned-author Jim Corbett? 

To clear doubts on this subject I searched for the original 1968 article where the 
new tiger subspecies was introduced to the scholarly world by Dr Vratislav Mazak. 
This article is not easy to find for the English speaker, as it appeared in French. Its title 
is “Novelle sous-espece de tigre provenant de l’Asie du Sud-Est.” 

Even if you do not read French, there are plenty of similarities between French 
and English words, so it should not too difficult for the English speakers to understand 
what is written in the article. Topic of our particular interest was found on the pages 
105-106, where there is a special small section about the naming of the suggested 
new tiger subspecies. Here is the entire French text from the article - read it slowly: 

“Derivatio Nominis: 

“Le tigre de la Peninsule Indochinese et de l’extreme sud de la Chine est nomme 
d’apres feu Jim Corbett, excellent naturaliste, qui a consacre sa vie a l’etude et a la 
protection de la nature indienne, et notamment des tigres.” 

As we can see, there can be no doubts, the name “Jim Corbett” is very clearly 
written in Mazak’s 1968 article. 

If you access the article it is also easy to see that one of the first references in this 
article is made to a work by G.B. Corbet. Most likely this was the foundation for the 
suspicions that the naming was referring not to Jim Corbett, but to Gordon Corbet. 

Another interesting question connected to the naming of the tiger subspecies after 
Jim Corbett is how Doctor Vratislav Mazak, ethically Czech, could learn about Jim 
Corbett? Although for most of the people in the Western Word Jim Corbett books are 
freely available, Dr Mazak did not belong to the Western world. Mazak was born in 
1937 and grow up in Socialist Czechoslovakia. And as we know, for the people from so- 
cialist countries most of the western publications were out of reach. And still, it is most 
likely that Dr Mazak was fascinated by Corbett books and personality most probably 
from his teenage years. How was this possible? According to the common knowledge 
of Corbett lovers (see also all the published Corbett biographies), no Corbett book has 
ever been translated to any of the languages of any of the socialist countries. 

Well, Corbett fans and scholars need to change this opinion drastically. We need to 
know that in Soviet Union (and in other socialist countries under the Soviet guidance) 
publishers were totally negligent towards the copyright rules of the Western Society, 
and they were freely translating and publishing any works of Western authors if these 
works (and authors) were considered appropriate for the socialist morale and socialist 
readers. Jim Corbett, with his explicit love and sympathy for the poor of India, was 


WAS A TIGER SUBSPECIES REALLY NAMED AFTER JIM CORBETT 


243 


one of the few authors that were widely known throughout Soviet Union and other 
socialist countries. The author of this chapter himself comes from the former Soviet 
Union, and I can say, that in my teenage years I have read Jim Corbett “Man-eaters 
of Kumaon” both in Georgian and Russian languages. There is more. I am sure, that 
apart from Russian and Georgian translations, there were many more translations 
made in most (or possibly all) fifteen official languages of the former Soviet Union. 
I mean languages like Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Armenian, Kazakh, etc. Unfortunately, 
these translations are not known to the most of the Western Corbett fans, and even 
to Corbett biographers. 

As a socialist country at the time, Czechoslovakia most likely had at least some 
of Corbett books translated, and most likely Mazak became a lifelong fan of Corbett 
from his teenage years. Mazak grew up to be a prominent paleoanthropologist and 
biologist. As paleoanthropologist, he is credited (together with Colin Groves) as the 
describer of Homo ergaster, one of the most important direct human ancestors, and 
as biologist, he is known for proving that Indochinese tiger was in fact a separate 
subspecies of the tiger. Other indications of Mazak’s deep reverence for Jim Corbett 
can be found his other publications. For example, in his later article “Panthera Tigris” 
(in journal “Mammalian Species”, 1981, No 152, May 8, pages 1-8) Mazak cites Jim 
Corbett works ten times. Unfortunately, Vratislav Mazak, brilliant scholar, died in 
1987 at the young age of 50. 

After seeing the French original, we have to acknowledge the good work that D.C. 
Kala did in presenting the original French text in his biography: “World recognition 
from brother naturalists came in 1968 with the naming of a subspecies of tiger after 
Corbett. This is Panthera tigris corbetti, found in Indo-China and extreme South Chi- 
na. It is slightly shorter than the Indian tiger and characterized by a ‘darker ground 
coloration and more numerous, rather short, narrow and rarely doubled stripes’. It was 
named after Corbett by Dr Vratislav Mazak to honour “the excellent naturalist who 
devoted his life to the study and protection of Indian wild-life, particularly the tigers.” 

And finally, those who would like to see the original Mazak 1968 article for them- 
selves in order to make sure there are no mistakes made by the author of this chapter, 
please search the internet with the original French title of the article (Novelle sous-es- 
pece de tigre provenant de l’Asie du Sud-Est), or go directly to this address: 

http://www. degruyter.com/dg/viewarti cle/j$002fmamm. 1968. 32. issue- l$002fma 
mm. 1968.32. 1 . 1 04$002fmamm. 1968.32. 1 . 1 04.xml;jsessionid=F3D5EF 14A8F463B3E- 
4FE48FA66C56795 


244 


PART FIVE: MAKING OF THE BOOK: KUMAON 
2012 AND 2014 TRIP DIARIES 


The reader will find here the detailed account of two trips that authors of this 
book undertook together in Kumaon, India: (1) in April of 2012 and (2) in April of 
2014. These trips were crucial for our first-hand knowledge of the places where Jim 
Corbett hunted man-eating tigers, and for finding the descendants and relatives of the 
people from Corbett stories. 

Readers need also to remember that individual authors of this book also had in- 
dividual trips to Kumaon. In April 2007 Manfred Waltl, and in January 2011 Joseph 
Jordania visited Corbett places before forming our group, which we often refer to as 
“Corbett Brothers,” in late 201 1. 

These trips were also crucial for our research of virtually all topics you will find in 
this. Extended discussions, particularly in the evenings, at our camping sites during 
the dinner, or at the man-eater’s killing sites, usually with several copies of Corbett 
books and published Corbett biographies in our hands, were crucial for sharing facts, 
ideas and doubts on various Corbett-related topics. 

Diaries are illustrated with the photos from our trip, particularly on the topics 
that are not discussed in special chapters of this book. Naturally, many hundreds of 
other photos from these trips and many hours of video footage are in our archives, 
and besides, there is a film-documentary about our 2012 and 2014 trips to Kumaon. 

For all the authors of this book these trips were fulfilling not only for the sake of 
search, but for the admiration and thrill of following the footsteps of our shared hero, 
for seeing the beauty of Kumaon hills and hill villages, for meeting the wonderfully 
hospitable people from the Kumaon, for seeing and hearing animal the same way as 
Corbett did - ghorals running up the face of cliffs, leopard and tiger footprints, sam- 
bhar calls, the nighttime concerts of the jungles. Although the trip sometimes posed 
serious problems for us, and we had occasional minor injuries and scratches on our 
hands, feet and heads, these minor inconveniences just added the feel of adventure to 
the thrill of following Jim Corbett footsteps. 

If you are a Jim Corbett fan, we hope that reading these diaries will provoke you 
not only to re-read Corbett stories once again, but also to visit India and see for your- 
self the places where the events described in your favorite Corbett stories occurred. 


245 


Corbett Trip Diary Kumaon, 2012 

By MANFRED WALTL 


6th April, 6pm, Delhi railway station! 

This was the plan: To arrive in Delhi from different countries all over the world 
on 6th April 2012 and meet at 6 o’clock at the Old Delhi railway station. We had sent 
photos to each other, so we could recognize each other at the platform of the Ranikhet 
Express. We, that is, first, Dr. Joseph Jordania, long-term Jim Corbett fan, expert in 
choral singing, evolutionary musicologist from the Melbourne University, Australia, 
author of books such as “Who asked the first question” and “Why do people sing” and 
initiator of our trip; Kristoff Kotecha (Indian name Preetum Gheerawo), born in India 
who had a farm in South Africa before moving over to Mauritius, where he now lives 
with his two daughters Reyna and Rushika, who were also part of our team. Then there 
is Priyvrat Gadhvi, a 29-year-old Indian biologist from Gujarat, who worked hard on 
the search for a reliable and reasonably priced tour operator for our trip. When he at 
last suggested Anup Kandari, a taxi operator in Nainital and his cousin and guide Ka- 
mal Bisht, he made a good choice and we had no reason to regret it. And finally there 
was me. My name is Manfred Waltl, I am 58 years old, live in Munich, Germany, have 
studied biology, chemistry and theology and did my Promotion about the significance 
of Sociobiology for Theology and Ethics. I have read Corbett’s books over and over 
again since when, at the age of twelve, I found a copy of Man-eaters of Kumaon in an 
old magazine in one of the libraries I raided on my bicycle at that time in search of 
books about animals, adventure and natural history. 

It was the second trip to Corbett country for Dr. Jordania and me. My first was in 
2007, Dr. Jordania’s in 2011. We both did it with the help of Sid Anand from Camp 
Corbett and we came in contact with each other when Dr. Jordania, before going to 
India, asked me some questions concerning the Thak man-eater killing site. Two more 
people also planned to come with us: Priyvrat’s brother-in-law Rajdeep and especially 
Fernando Quevedo de Oliveira, who did all the preparation and planning with us, 
but had to cancel the trip only some weeks before we were due to leave. Fernando, 
a 57-year- old Brazilian photo journalist from the newspaper “O Globo,” was a very 
important part of our group during planning and discussion. In his first email he wrote 
to me: “I keep imagining myself being in all of these Corbett locations since I read 
Man-eaters of Kumaon 45 years ago.” He felt deeply sorry that he couldn’t join us due 
to very serious problems with his employer. We were very sorry too and considered 
Fernando as still an important member of our group, though forced to stay with his 
work in Brazil. Fernando kindly offered his help in editing the video material we 
wanted to film on our trip to make into a trip documentary. 


246 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


April 6, 6pm, Delhi railway station! I liked the idea and thought it to be very cool 
to tell my friends and workmates when they would ask me about my travel: “I have to 
meet some friends at Delhi railway station.” It was like saying: “Let’s meet at 8 o clock 
in front of the cinema.” We did not know each other personally, but because of many 
emails concerning our trip and Corbett-related topics, we were already familiar with 
each other. We were all great fans of Jim Corbett and had shared ideas and questions 
with each other. And there was much to think about and to discuss before our trip. 
One of the most important matters was the question of which tour operator we should 
rely for the trip. Last time Joseph and I went with Sid Anand from Camp Corbett. 
Sid was a very knowledgeable and prudent guide and the trip was fine but he charged 
“western” prices and so we searched for alternatives. Priyvrat’s experience as an Indian 
proved to be very important in this regard: it was on his recommendation that we fi- 
nally found Anup and Kamal. There were other questions: Do we need ponies to carry 
our luggage? How many ponies? What about permits, as the region where we wanted 
to go was a sensible one because of its vicinity to the Nepalese border? Different time 
budgets had to be taken into account: Dr. Jordania and Priyvrat had to fly back in the 
early morning of 15th April, while Kotecha and I had a few more days to spend and 
wanted to add the Chowgarh man-eater killing site to the list of places to see. 

There were also questions about the metal plaque we wanted to affix to the rock 
at Thak. There were different suggestions concerning the text, but Dr. Jordania finally 
managed to create out of several suggestions a final version that we could all agree to. 
Then there were technical questions about the material of the plaque and the way to fix 
it on the rock and about the metal detectors we wanted to take, because we had a very 
faint hope that Corbetts cartridges might still be around deeply covered by the soil. 
There were so many questions and so many topics to discuss, but finally everything 
fell into place, we had made the necessary decisions and boarded our flights to meet 
on 6th April at 6 pm at Delhi railway station. 

5th April, Delhi Airport: I had arrived in Delhi a day before our meeting, at 
7.30am, with a direct Lufthansa flight from Munich. Much had changed in Delhi since 
my last visit. There was no more “third world feeling” when passing through the gates 
of the new international terminal. I went straight to the prepaid taxi counter that was 
hidden in the furthest corner of the departure (!) part of the terminal. Maybe the taxi 
drivers’ union managed to put it as far away as possible from the other taxis waiting at 
the exit. Anyway it was a good choice. I had to pay 250 RS (about 5 USD) for a small 
car, which was very good value for the 30 minutes’ ride to the Hotel Iris Park, located 
in South Delhi roughly half-way between the airport and the city center. Kotecha and 
the girls had arrived on the same day two hours earlier, and as we decided before the 
trip, they were booked in this hotel too. We had arranged to meet at 1pm in the hotel 
lobby so everyone could have a rest after the flight. I had only a short rest and soon 
went out to explore the surroundings. There were seven historical cities of Delhi be- 


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fore the foundation of New Delhi in 1911 and within walking distance, roughly one 
mile away, was the “Hauz-Khas-Komplex”. Besides having some exclusive boutique 
shopping facilities now, it contains the ruins of “Siri fort”, the second city of the seven 
cities that made up medieval Delhi. The tomb of Feroz Shah Tughlaq and some other 
monuments are picturesque, situated beneath an artificial lake, which was built as a 
water supply in the beginning of the 14th century. After walking around and taking 
photos, I went back to the hotel on a nice shortcut through a peaceful deer park. 

Shortly after 1pm, Kotecha and his girls came down to the lobby. We shook hands 
and were happy to make personal contact finally after so many emails. The girls at 
first were quiet and shy, but after a short time they opened up, as Kotecha said they 
“came out of their shells”. They made me a present of a charming drawing by way of 
a welcome gift. Kotecha gave me a table set and T-shirt from his homeland of Mauri- 
tius and - to my utmost surprise and excitement - 6 cans of a Mauritian Beer, called 
“Phoenix”. As I would find out not much later, Kotecha was very right in describing 
it as one of the best beers in the world. I think he even said “the very best beer”, but 
my Bavarian ears could not hear this without adding the words “one of. . But now 
was not the time for tasting beer. We hired a motor rickshaw to the metro station 
and went to Conaught Place where we changed money, and where Kotecha bought 
an Indian SIM card for his mobile. Then we did a rickshaw ride through Old Delhi 
and Chandni Chowk. In a side road Kotecha bought two silver necklaces at a small 
jeweler’s shop, one for Reyna and one for Rushika. 

Back in the hotel, we took a can of Mauritian beer out of the refrigerator and I 
had to admit, “Phoenix” was indeed an excellent beer with a full-rounded taste and 
very refreshing too. After a delicious dinner at the hotel restaurant -the only down- 
side being it was not licensed which meant “No beer”, we went to Kotecha’s room for 
another can. Soon we had some very interesting discussions concerning Corbett and 
Kenneth Anderson. Good to talk to someone with the same interests!.. It grew later 
and one more can of beer had to be opened before going to sleep. 

6th April, Delhi: After breakfast, we went with a “tuck tuck” to the National Rail- 
way Museum. I had wanted to visit it for a long time, but had never had the occasion 
to do so. I thought it was a good idea now, since it was not far from the hotel and it 
might also be an attraction for Reyna and Rushika with the possibility of a toy train 
ride and the impressive sight of old steam engines. At the entrance a disappointment, 
at least for me: no photos were allowed! I asked for a permit but they denied me one 
because of “strict governmental regulations”. We took the toy train ride first to get an 
overview and to take some discreet photos out of the rolling train. Then we strolled 
between historic steam locomotives and carriages built for maharajas, princes and 
viceroys. Some of them were in very good condition, but some at more remote places 
were romantically covered with rust, awaiting restoration. The girls, as did Kotecha 
and I, enjoyed climbing up the steam locomotives and feeling like old-time engine 


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drivers. My disappointment concerning “no photos!” had quickly disappeared. At least 
at the outside displays, nobody cared about it. Many people were taking photos and 
we gladly joined in feeling as though we were back in a time near when Jim Corbett 
lived. We felt even closer to him when we came across a loco of the Bengal and North 
Western Railways BNWR for whom Corbett worked for many years - but this was at 
the inner displays where the ban on photos was still taken seriously. 

Lunch at McDonalds in Connaught place. At the desk, Kotecha’s mobile started 
ringing. Priyvrat was calling. He was at the airport waiting for Dr. Jordania to arrive 
from Ahmadabad, where he had spent several days researching the famous Indian 
lions in Gir forest. The flight was late and Priyvrat said he would call again when the 
arrival time was confirmed. We were already at the hotel when the next call came. 
Priyvrat and Dr. Jordania had decided to come to us and meet us at our hotel lobby. 
No more 6th April, 6pm, Delhi railway station. What a pity! But it was much easier this 
way. Big greetings when our friends arrived. We were so glad to meet each other after 
months of electronic contact. There was an immediate harmony and understanding 
between us, as we had known each other already for a much longer time. Dr. Jorda- 
nia gave us beautiful baseball caps on which he had printed the words: “Jim Corbett 
of Kumaon 2012”. With such strengthened corporal Identity we went for dinner in a 
nearby (licensed!) restaurant and then, in the hotel manager’s car, we went to the Old 
Delhi railway station, where we boarded the Ranikhet Express. 

Camp Corbett and a peaceful little village 

I immediately felt something was wrong when we boarded the train. Kotecha and 
the girls were not in our carriage. To explain this, we have to go back in time. Priyvrat 
had booked the railway tickets to Ramnagar two month ago, when Fernando and Ra- 
jdeep were still supposed to be with us, and when Kotecha’s girls had not confirmed 
they were coming on the trip. In the Indian Railway booking system, a seat or a bed is 
booked in the name of a particular person, whose passport number is also mentioned 
on the ticket. If the person whose name is on the reservation list does not arrive, 
another person can take the seat only if no one is ahead of him in the priority list. 
That was the question for Kotecha, whose girls had replaced Fernando and Raj deep. 
So to be on the safe side, they made their own booking for Kathgodam (!), which, as 
Priyvrat told them, was the nearest railway station to Camp Corbett. A taxi transfer 
from the station was already booked. The problem was: Priyvrat thought Kathgodam 
would be on the same railway line, only one station before Ramnagar - a mistake that 
can easily be made due to the somewhat inefficient train schedule. But that was not at 
all the case. The train in fact divided halfway between Delhi and our destination with 
one part going to Ramnagar and the other to Kathgodam. Kotecha’s reservation was 
on the other end of the train, so it had to be assumed he would arrive at a different 
place. What could we do? Should we ask him to come on our end of the train? This 


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would mean trading the comfort of the first class compartment he had booked to our 
3Ac sleeper with uncertainty about receiving the seats anyway. But besides this, how 
could we tell him? Kotecha had switched off his mobile as it was late and walking 
from one part of the train to the other was not possible either. So Priyvrat did the only 
thing possible. He called Anup Kandari, our guide, who organized taxis for us, and 
ordered two taxis: one for Ramnagar and the other for Kathgodam. Both stations were 
about the same distance from Camp Corbett in Kaladhungi where we were going. We 
described to Anup our friends (“a man with two girls, 10 and 8 years old”) the driver 
had to look for and went to sleep thinking that the problem had been solved. Kotecha, 
so we thought, would not be in trouble when found by the taxi driver who could tell 
him of our whereabouts. But as Kotecha told me later, it was not so easy at all. There 
was no driver looking for them and he was very unsure what to do. Just as he wanted 
to call a taxi for himself by an incredible stroke of luck, the first person he contacted 
for a taxi to Camp Corbett was indeed the man waiting for them, not at the platform 
but sitting in his SUV at the parking lot. Sorry Kotecha for this inconvenience! 

7th April: At 5.00 am in the morning the train arrived at Ramnagar station and 
we entered the waiting taxi for the 45-minute drive to Camp Corbett. For this early 
time of the day, there were an amazing number of people walking along the road on 
the outskirts of the village. Our driver told us that morning walks were very popular 
now. There was also wildlife on the road to Kaladhungi. A spotted deer did not find 
its way off the road until we faded our headlights and soon after we crashed into a 
wild boar, which sprang out of the scrubs and suddenly crossed the road in front of 
us. The boar seemed not to be seriously injured and ran off, but a big dent appeared 
in the front of the car which made the driver look very sorry. Without further acci- 
dents we reached Camp Corbett where we were invited for tea by Mrs. Sumi Anand, 
mother of Sid Anand. We were sorry to hear that her husband, Omi, the dedicated 
Corbett fan and a knowledgeable person in all Corbett-related topics, had passed 
away the previous year, but many photos of him in the living room kept his memory 
alive. Mrs Anand told us that she was thinking about retiring from managing Camp 
Corbett to have time to write a biography about her husband, who was so dedicated 
to the legacy of Jim Corbett. 

After a while, Kotecha, Reyna and Rushika arrived from Kathgodam and after 
breakfast and a short rest, we did a walk to Choti Haldwani, the village Jim Corbett 
had acquired in 1915 and had kept under his protection until his departure to Africa. 
Guided by Trilok Sing, son of Sher Sing who was an old friend of Corbett, we went 
down to the Boar River, following the water canal in the direction of Kaladhungi. There 
we went right, passed the Corbett museum and came to the village of Choti Haldwani 
on the western end of Kaladhungi. Today it is still a prosperous and well-maintained 
village with green fields, fertile soil and healthy and happy looking people. It looks as 
though everyone can make a living here. Still to be seen is the once 9 km long and 


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6 feet high wall Corbett built to protect the crops from wild boar and other animals. 
The first house we stopped at was the house of Bauwan Singh, grandson of Moti Singh 
and son of Baan Singh (Banua Singh or Punwaas Corbett called him in ”My India”). It 
was interesting to see that the grandson still had “the delicate, finely chiseled features”, 
with which Corbett describes Mothi in “My India”. We were invited into the “masonry 
house with three rooms and a wide veranda on a four-foot plinth”, Corbett had built 
for his hunting companion Mothi. Even today it was in good condition and well main- 
tained and still had the wooden roof in its original shape. We thanked Bauwan Singh 
for his kindness and went further on to Sher Sing’s Chaupal which Corbett had built 
as a common meeting place for the villagers. We sat down for tea and Trilok Singh 
showed us the pride of his family: a gun given by Jim Corbett to his father Sher Singh 
to protect the village against wild boar and other animals eating the crops. It was a 
single-barreled-muzzle-loader with a smooth bore of 12-caliber and hammer action. 
We were invited to take the gun and we took many photos posing as Jim Corbett with 
and without the owner. Trilok Singh even asked us if he should load the gun for us 
to take live shots. We declined, not wanting to spoil the peacefulness of the location 
with gunshots. Maybe we were lucky to do so, because when going back we came 
across a car with some official people preparing a ministry visit to Choti Haldwani. 
Who knows, if we were firing shots, we might have been arrested for trying to shoot 
the minister. . . 

On the way back we stopped at the Corbett Museum, once the winter home of the 
Corbett family after moving from Arundale in 1922. Before Corbett left for Kenya, he 
sold the house to a friend who later gave it to the Forest Department to be converted 
into a museum. We went through its memorabilia, soaked up the atmosphere of the 
peaceful court and before leaving had a look at the museum shop. It was erected at 
one of the ancient gates and next to the tree which is still there, where the bachelor 
of Powalgarh was positioned for a photograph in 1930. Besides Corbett’s well known 
books, there was also some clothing and Dr. Jordania bought a “Save the tiger” jungle 
vest. I found an interesting (though as I discovered at home Hindi-speaking) DVD 
about a man-eating tiger who last year claimed 5 victims at the Sundarkhal settlement 
near the Dhangarhi gate of Corbett NP. Back in Camp Corbett we had a tasty but for 
some of us a bit hot Kumaoni lunch, till at 4pm we went for a “jungle walk”. Walking 
up the Boar River for one mile, we then turned right and went over the “glade”, where 
Jim for the first time saw the magnificent “Bachelor of Powalgarh,” one of the biggest 
tigers ever killed in India. Passing a Hindu temple, we came to Corbett’s so-called 
“film studio”. Here, between December 1938 and April 1939, in a tributary of the Boar 
River, he blocked the water creating small artificial waterfalls to hide the sounds of his 
movie camera. Back in camp, we packed our bags for an early start and enjoyed dinner 
and the last cold beer for some days. On the next day there was an important walk 


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ahead - the walk to the villages Chuka and Thak, the sites of Jim Corbett’s two last 
hunts after man-eating tigers, the most important destinations of our trip to Kumaon! 

Walking to Chuka 

Saturday 8th April: Wake-up call at 4 o’clock in the morning! Our drive to Thuligad 
(Thuli Gadh) - the furthermost village that can be reached by car - should start at 5 o 
clock, but the driver is late and after one more cup of tea and some biscuits, we were 
on the road at about 5.45. The night was short and we were sleepy during the drive. 
After a tea stop in Tanakpur we reached Thuligad at 9.30. Kamal Bisht, Anup’s cousin 
and our guide for the next 5 days, was already waiting for us. The road towards the end 
of Thuligad was closed for the last l-2kms due to the Purnagiri festival, a pilgrimage 
in honor of the goddess Saraswatee to the Purnagiri temple. Kamal’s men grabbed our 
baggage and loaded up the waiting ponies, which carried all the equipment including 
tents, sleeping bags and food. Shortly after 10pm when we started the 20 km trek, it 
had already warmed up considerably. For the first kilometre, there were many people 
joining the road with us because of the festival. But soon the road to Purnagiri went 
steeply up to the left and we walked down some steps to the right side, following for 
the next 5 kilometres the gorge of the Sharda. In earlier times, this footpath was dif- 
ficult and dangerous, but it has been much improved in recent years. It still has some 
steep and muddy sections that can be slippery under wet conditions, but as a whole 
it is a beautiful, scenic and safe walk. 

The path along the gorge follows the alignment of an old tramway line, built 
by J.V. Collier to haul out the million cubic feet of Sal timber, which was gifted by 
Nepal to the Government of India after the First World War. There is nothing left 
of the tramway line now, and it is hard to imagine anyway, how Collier could have 
built it under the difficult conditions of the steep gorge. We passed a small temple 
just below the famous Purnagiri temple, which rears up around 400 metres on top 
of the mountain. It was around here where Corbett saw the mysterious lights, when 
on his way to Tala Des he had to camp in the gorge. Corbett describes the lights as 
two feet in diameter, burning steadily without flicker or smoke. Fie first thought of 
men with lanterns in search of something lost, but in the morning he found that the 
hillside, where the lights appeared, was perpendicular rock, where no human being 
could walk or stand. Corbett did not find a satisfying explanation for the lights, but 
on his way back after the successful hunt, the priests of Purnagiri provided him with 
the following story: “You know, there is near the sacred shrine of Purnagiri a pinnacle 
of rock, the climbing of which is forbidden by the goddess. In the days of long ago, 
a Sadhu, more ambitious than his fellows, climbed the pinnacle with the object of 
putting himself on an equal footing with the Goddess. Incensed, the Goddess hurled 
the Sadhu from the pinnacle to the hill on the far side of the river. There the Sadhu, 
banished for ever from Purnagiri, worships the Goddess by lighting lamps to her.” 


252 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


The lights, according to the priests’ story, appear only at certain times and were only 
visible to favoured people. This favour was accorded to Corbett, because he was on a 
mission for the hillfolk over whom the Goddess watches. Today there was no priest at 
the temple, but when I passed the place live years ago, Sid, my then-guide had talked 
with him. The priest confirmed the story about the lights, but had never seen them 
personally. Sid, however, told me he once had seen them and described the lights as 
moving very quickly on the mountain side. He had no really satisfying explanation 
either, but thought it might be some geological phenomenon. 

At the end of the gorge, there is some sort of bottleneck between the river on the 
right side and steep hills on the left. At this place, not easily bypassed by smugglers 
or poachers, we had to stop at the first of three checkposts of the border police on the 
way to Chuka. It did not exist five years ago, but this time we had to show passports 
and permits. Soon it turned out that we had a problem. We had a permit, but it was 
only issued by the Forest Department. What we did not know was that we needed a 
second one from the border police. But the police men were kind and helpful. They 
let us sit down in the station and refreshed us with a very welcome cup of cool water 
while they communicated with their headquarters in Kaldhunga (not to be confused 
with Kaladhungi, Corbett’s home town). Fortunately the officer at headquarters said: 
“Let them come”. So after taking a photo with the friendly officers, we shook hands and 
went on. From here, the path runs mainly through forest crossing some minor ravines 
and watercourses. It was after midday and hot, but fortunately the walk was mostly 
shaded by trees. A thunderstorm passed and a few raindrops created some coolness, 
but when we reached the second checkpoint near the Kaldhunga Forest Rest House, 
we were in dire need of an extended break. Astoundingly Kotecha’s girls did not seem 
to have any problems on the long walk. Before our trip we thought it might be too 
stressful for them and wondered whether there should be ponies on which they could 
have a ride. But in reality, they went in front most of the time and had less problems 
than most of us. So had great respect for Reyna and Rushika who fitted perfectly into 
our group on other occasions and gave our trip a very welcome family touch. 

The very hospitable officer at the Kaldhunga checkpost gave us water and tea and 
we unwrapped our lunch packets and relaxed for a while. The old forest rest house 
here was also built by Collier, the British timber contractor. It is now occupied by the 
Indian Army and the border police. Corbett raves about this place and claims that “the 
view from the veranda as the morning sun rises over the distant hills and the mist is 
lifting is one of the most pleasing prospects it is possible to imagine.” Meanwhile trees 
and bushes have grown and obstruct the view. Before going on, I thought of tipping 
the officer for his hospitality, but he firmly refused. This caused Priyvrat to say to me: 
“I am so proud of the lower ranks of the Forest Department. These are the people who 
are responsible for the fact that there is still any wildlife here.” After two more hours 
we passed the last checkpoint one kilometre in front of Chuka. Once again the border 


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police turned out to be a real blessing for the local people. The officer was very con- 
cerned about supporting them in this remote area by improving footpaths, providing 
communication and of course security. He invited us into the enclosure, offered us 
seats and refreshments and talked with us about the basic needs of the people: edu- 
cation, communication and electricity. Priyvrat was so moved by their care he offered 
to send solar panels to the police station, to be distributed to the people of Chuka. We 
proceeded with the comfortable feeling that there would be someone to look after us if 
something unexpected happened. Before entering Chuka we passed Sid’s campground, 
where Dr. Joseph and I had our tents respectively one and five years ago. The house 
Sid had begun to build on this site was still not finished, but at least had its roof now. 

We passed the village on our left side and reached the bank on the Sarda, where 
we wanted to make camp for the night. The ponies with the baggage were not yet 
there, so we used the last light of the day for a walk over the stony river bed to the 
Ladhya-Sarda confluence, 300 metres in front of us. When we came back, it was nearly 
dark and we began to worry about the still-missing ponies. We had not met them 
during the trek because they went another way, a longer way but easier to negotiate 
for ponies. Kamal, our guide, seemed to be worried too and tried to phone his men, 
but got no mobile connection. It was now completely dark and some small lights were 
to be seen in the village of Sem on the other side of the Ladhya. Chuka on our side 
seemed to be in complete darkness. No village had electricity, but in Sem there were 
obviously some people with solar panels. Our men collected wood and lit a fire, while 
we thought about alternatives, if the ponies for some reason didn’t arrive at all. To sleep 
in the open at the river bank was not a desirable option because Priyvrat had found 
leopard pugmarks probably from the previous night that went straight through our 
camp ground in the direction of the river. By retracing its steps, we observed that it 
came from behind some stone walls fairly close to where later that night Kamal would 
pitch our mobile toilet. Then the leopard appeared to have made a stealthy approach 
weaving through the bushes scattered here and there and avoiding the open space 
where we were camped. It followed a cattle path between two bushes and wandered 
through the open sandy bank of the Sharda in the direction of the river, just where 
we bathed the next morning. We did not take photos of the pugmarks as we found 
them in the evening, but it was very likely the same resident leopard that Joseph saw 
and photographed its pugmarks in January 2011. 

As we were sitting in pitch darkness around the fire, surrounded by jungle on 
three sides, and considering the possibility that the resident leopard was watching us 
from the bushes, Dr Jordania suggested we should do what some African tribes and 
even chimpanzees do when they have to sleep in the forest where there are predators 
around: he suggested we should stomp together rhythmically, and sing loudly and 
shout. After a few minutes of wild concert we started discussing what to do. Maybe 
we could sleep on the veranda of a house in Chuka or go back to the police station. 


254 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


I would have opted for the last, but shortly after nine, we finally heard the welcome 
noise of the arriving ponies. We all were relieved and happy and so was Kamal. 

The party of carriers and ponies had gone from Thuligad to Chalti where they 
crossed the Ladhya River with a ferry boat. Because of the festival at Purnagiri they had 
a very long wait at the crossing and that was the reason for the delay. With the light of 
torches our men finally set up the tents. So our adventure started a bit unexpectedly, 
but finally everyone was well and happy. After emptying the last cans of Mauritian 
beer, we went to sleep. Kotetcha and his elder daughter Rushika took the orange tent, 
Joseph Jordania, who was selected as a roommate by Kotetcha’s youngest daughter 
Reyna, choose the purple one and I shared the blue tent with Priyvrat. 

Kotecha, with the pugmarks in mind, was concerned when taking the girls out 
to the “toilet” at night and he kept a sharp lookout in the bushes for the least suspi- 
cious movement, because he had the ugly feeling of being watched and felt that we 
could have been visited at night. Indeed his tent, which was closest to the toilet and 
to the bushes from where the pugmarks came was constantly visited at night by some 
animal. He heard its movements but no other sounds from it and as he told me he 
hardly slept that night. The soil was hard around the tent and revealed no pugmarks 
the next morning. When we returned from Thak on the fourth day and camped at 
the same spot again, no new pugmarks were seen, as if we had really disturbed the 
animal which had apparently left the place. 

A new "Man-eater of Kumaon” 

I don’t know if I would have slept so peacefully in my tent or even had discussed 
for a moment the possibility of sleeping on an open veranda, if I had known what we 
learned a few months later after our trip. Shivasangkar, a friend of Kotecha living in 
Assam, north-east India, phoned Kotecha in the early morning on November 16th, 
2012, announcing that he was going to Nepal because a reward has been posted on the 
head of an animal, a leopard, which was alleged to have killed 15 people in a little less 
than a year. Most interestingly, this new man-eater was operating next to the Sharda 
River on the left bank, exactly opposite Chuka where we had camped in April. The 
district on the Nepalese side of the river is called the Baitadi district, which forms part 
of the former princely district of Rupal. Corbett fans might remember that Rupal is 
the district, where the man-eating tigress of Champawat (known in Nepal, according 
to Peter Byrne, as the Rupal man-eater) originated in the early 1900’s. Here in Nepal, 
according to Corbett’s writing in his Champawat chapter, the tigress had killed two 
hundred human beings before been driven out by a body of armed Nepalese. Before 
Corbett could kill her and during the four years she operated in Kumaon, the tigress 
added two hundred and thirty four to this tally. The Baitadi district was a historical 
part of Kumaon and was ruled by the Chand kings of Kumaon before 1791 when it 


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became part of Nepal. This was the place Shivsangkar was going. An animal lover as 
he is, he hoped the leopard would be captured alive rather than killed. 

We did not know about the new man-eater of Kumaon when we camped exactly 
on the other river bank of leopard’s territory. Actually, Kotecha did receive a warning 
from Shivsangkar before our trip to look after his girls well, because in many parts of 
India it is not uncommon for leopards to carry off children. He told him also about 
some cases on the opposite bank of the Sarda, but at this time they seemed random 
and isolated, spread over different regions and believed to be the work of different 
leopards. But by the November 2012 the death toll was 15 including grown up persons 
and it was confirmed by pugmarks and forensic investigation, that it was the action 
of a single man-eating leopard. Normally, as Shivsangkar told Kotecha, when an an- 
imal is declared a man-eater in Nepal (as a rule, after 6 human kills), it is accounted 
for within two or three weeks at a maximum, either shot or captured. Now this one 
has escaped numerous traps, forest ranger shots, and poisoned baits for more than 6 
months, so the government has no alternative but to put a reward on his head, turning 
back to a practice of more than three quarters of a century ago, and used by people 
like Baines, Vivian or Ibbotson. The reward shows how seriously the problem of this 
man-eater was taken by the government, because it has occurred only twice in Nepal 
during the last 50 years. 

Looking back now to this evening on the banks of the Sharda it can be said that 
there was no real danger from the man-eater and even if we had known about it, we 
probably wouldn’t have changed anything. We knew of the danger of child-taking even 
by “normal” leopards and were prepared to use proper precautions for the girls but 
had no special concern as would have been the case in the presence of a man-eater. 
Knowing that a confirmed man-eating leopard was operating on the other side of 
the Sharda would have made things somewhat different, but not to the extent of real 
danger. Of course leopards can swim, but are much more reluctant to cross rivers 
than tigers and so it would be very unlikely for the animal to visit us on our side of 
the river. If you think about the story of the Rudraprayag leopard you may remember, 
that this animal always used the bridge for crossing the Alkananda River and Corbett 
was sure, if he blocked the only bridge in the region, he could restrict the operation 
of the animal to one side of the river. Moreover - as you read in another part of the 
Rudraprayag story, even if the leopard had crossed the Sarda, he would still have had 
to deal with the resident leopard, the one that left pugmarks at our campground. But 
still, even if we were in fact safe on our side of the river, knowing now that another 
“Man-eater of Kumaon” possibly watched us from a distance of only a few hundred 
metres added some spooky feeling to our experiences of Kumaon. 

Of course we are curious how the story of the leopard will end up and hope 
Shivsangkar will be successful in finishing the career of the animal. I admit that I 
have no special concern if the animal is trapped or shot. I worry much more about 


256 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


the people living under such pressure and about the danger of the uncontrolled killing 
of all leopards in the region by bounty hunters, who will probably start shooting any 
leopard that they find. But let’s hope for the best for Shivsangkar and that he will tell 
us the whole story sometime soon. Hopefully we will know the end of the story of the 
2011-2012 man-eater of Kumaon before too long. 

Thak and the "rectangular piece of ground” 

Monday, 9th April. Without having any second thoughts about the man-eaters 
lurking on the other side of the river or having heard anything outside the tent, I woke 
up early on a warm and sunny morning with the others still sleeping. 

Only Kamal and his men were already up and busy. Breakfast should be at nine 
and I had time to go down to the Sharda and to see if I could find a nice place for a 
relaxed bath. After spending some time searching and being still undecided whether 
to go into the river or not, I found something like a natural pool with a big boulder 
on the right and a little rapid on the left side. It looked nice, clean and safe and so 
I cautiously went in. The temperature of the water was fresh and cool but not too 
chilly. It turned out to be a really pleasant experience to relax in my “bathtub”, where 
the cool water flowed through, but without the strong torrents that might have made 
bathing dangerous as it was only one or two metres further out into the deep river. I 
even could wash my hair under the rapid river flow and left wonderfully refreshed. 

It was still 10.30 o’clock, when we started our walk up to Thak. It was a bit late 
because the heat already had increased. As we passed the school ground on our way, 
Mr. Prakash Chand, the teacher, came to the fence and invited us to have a cup of 
coffee with him. Originally from Pithoragarh, he had come here from Tanakpur three 
years ago. While drinking coffee with us, he complained of not having the necessary 
resources to do his job here. We handed him some sweets for the children, which 
were distributed by him with strictness and accuracy. It must have been the hottest 
time of the day now, when we finally started our climb. The village of Thak is on the 
northeastern slope some 500 metres above Chuka. As we found out later, the exact 
height is 835 metres above sea level with Chuka being a bit more than 300 metres. The 
path up to Thak was very steep and went through beautiful mixed forest that looked 
as though it had not changed much since Corbett’s time. It took us two exhausting 
hours and many breaks to reach the “rectangular piece of ground forty yards wide and 
eighty yards long” in front of the village, so vividly described by Corbett. Here during 
his last visit Dr. Jordania had identified the rock where Jim Corbett in 1938 had met 
the man-eating tigress of Thak in a dramatic encounter. 

Five years ago, I had already stood on this “rectangular piece of ground” but did 
not succeed in finding the right place, though I tried to accurately follow Corbett’s 
description. In addition to not having enough time, my main difficulty was to restrict 
my search to the actual footpath and not take into account that there could have been 


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changes over the years. I had found two possible rocks in 2007: the first one was 400 
metres further up the ridge and it was the one that my guides showed me as the site of 
Corbetts encounter with the tigress. The second one was just here, on this “flat bit of 
ground” on the side of the actual footpath. It was the rock that Indian villagers showed 
to Peter Byrne in 1975 which he described and photographed in his book (the date 
shown in his book, 1995, according to Peter Byrne himself, is wrong). The first one 
I soon ruled out because its location definitely did not fit Corbetts description. The 
rock Peter Byrne had found was better and I gave it some chance, but I still had my 
doubts as some important details did not coincide with Corbett’s description. Before 
Dr. Jordania’s visit in January 2011, I had an email exchange with him and told him 
about these doubts. After his return I was happy to hear that my thoughts helped him 
to discover a much more appropriate rock only about 40-50 metres away from the 
Peter Byrne rock. Because of a low rocky ridge it is not to be seen from where the 
footpath is now. I don’t want to go into details of the pro’s and con’s of the different 
rocks here and leave this task to Dr Jordania, who writes an account about this topic 
in a separate chapter of this book. 

After reaching the flat ground, Dr. Jordania showed us the place. It was a very 
special moment for us when we finally saw it: a big rock about four feet high at the 
eastern end of the area, just as Corbett had written. Clearly visible was a narrow ledge 
suitable for a precarious seat supported by a stretched-out leg and also the rounded top 
to hold on to and - with the support of a handkerchief - to put the rifle upon. Though 
detailed examinations still had to be done, our spontaneous impression was that Dr. 
Jordania had found the right place. Gathering round the rock full of excitement, we 
took photos from different angles, sat down on the ledge and posed as Jim Corbett with 
a walking stick serving as a rifle. Then we tried to imagine as clearly as possible what 
had happened here in the fading light on the 30thof November 1938. We discussed the 
way the tiger approached, talked about the site of the “hump”, Corbett mentions in his 
account, till after one hour we had to tear ourselves away from this remarkable place. 
There were still about 800 metres to go to the village of Thak, where we intended to 
make camp for the night. But we would definitely come back tomorrow. 

There are two ways to reach Thak from here: the first, let’s call it the “upper path”, 
runs along the same ridge Corbett went down on the 30th of November. It goes con- 
tinuously uphill and after 400 metres passes two big longish rocks on the left. The 
last of them my former guides showed me as the one where Corbett met the tigress, 
but as I already said this cannot be true. After passing it and near a small ravine, the 
way to Thak turns off left while another footpath continues straight on to Kot Kindri. 
Going to Thak, the path soon reaches open ground and has good views down to the 
ravine and the Ladhya valley below. If you take - as we did today - the “lower path”, 
you continue on more or less level with the flat ground along the ravine you looked 
down on from the “upper path”, till it reaches the cold spring of clear water under a 


258 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


mango tree. Corbett often mentioned this spring in his story. Here he had refreshed 
himself during the hunt and here he found the tigress’s pug marks superimposed on 
his footprints, realizing that the man-eater was stalking him in return. The spring is 
still there and we quenched our thirst with the cool, clear water we had to rely on for 
the next several days. It had a wonderful natural taste and we very much appreciated 
it after the long and hot climb. The “giant mango tree” from Corbett’s time does not 
exist anymore, but there are still roots in the ground from where the water is running 
and on top of it, a young mango tree was starting to grow. Behind the spring the path 
leaves the ravine and climbs steeply up. Ten minutes later we entered the deserted 
village of Thak. The ponies had passed us on our way and the camp was already set 
up in front of the first house. Tents were placed at the veranda, which was surrounded 
by a two-foot-high wall. Our men slept inside the house and we stored most of our 
baggage there too. The house was built in 1980, a time when Thak was still populated. It 
seemed to be a kind of public house and was used also for the “Puja”, a holy ceremony 
held by the former inhabitants every five years in November (last time they were here 
was in November 2011). 

Thak today is deserted as it was in Corbett’s time. However the cause is not a threat 
from a man-eating tiger, but money, comfort and water. As it was in former times 
and is still now, the village belongs to the people of Kot Kindri, who are priests of the 
Purnagiri Temple. As Corbett had already mentioned, the Thak village was gifted from 
the Chand Rajas who once ruled Kumaon to the forefathers of the present owners 
in return for their services at the temples. In the last decades, the temple had grown 
remarkably, so it did not make sense for them to live in such a remote place and farm 
for a living. Living closer to the temple meant better business. To a lesser degree, this 
is also the case in Kot Kindri. Though still populated, the numbers of inhabitants are 
declining. In Thak, water seemed also to be a big problem as all fresh sources have 
dried up and only the one at the old mango tree survives. We had been told by the 
teacher that the last few families left because of a lack of water and now the village is 
only used as a cattle station during the movement of cattle by the last Thak dwellers. 

After a late lunch and a cup of tea, we walked through the deserted village. Thak 
is quite small and probably no more than 20 families ever lived there constantly. Most 
of the houses have almost completely fallen to the ground, while the others standing 
in ruins are covered with weeds and bushes. We went up the main road of the village, 
which conveyed an eerie impression with its remaining walls and wooden structures 
like skeletons behind dense vegetation. As we know from Corbett, a tigress was walk- 
ing on these roads and was entering empty houses after the tigress killed her last victim 
on the terraced fields above the village on November 12th 1938. The villagers fled in 
panic, leaving even the house doors open. The village lies on the northern slope and 
was already in shadow, so it was not hard to imagine the scene of the tiger walking 
through the village in search of a victim or following Corbett’s traces and lying in 


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wait for him. If I had been alone, my imagination surely would cause me some slight 
panic, but with my friends present the sense of reality prevailed. We passed a rather 
well maintained house with a cattle shelter that was the property of Hoshiar Singh’s 
brother from Chuka, the only person that still lives here from time to time. Further 
up along terraced fields and passing an old water tank at the upper end of the village, 
we found two school buildings, both in ruins. Could the elder one be from Corbett’s 
time? Probably not, but maybe the school teacher of Chuka could find out. He had 
met us here again, coming after us to see what we might be doing. He was constantly 
talking and asking questions about our jobs and at every occasion, he tried to make 
contact with us. At least he promised to organize some digging tools for us when 
going down to Chuka tomorrow morning. Back in camp and waiting for dinner, we 
had some discussions about the content and the title of the book, Dr. Jordania had 
suggested we write about our trip and different Corbett-related topics. “Mysterious 
cry from a deserted village”: the title sounded attractive, but there should also be a 
more scientific subtitle to make clear that we did not intend to write a collection of 
horror stories. After lunch we went to sleep, not before we had tasted “wild water”, a 
vodka-like homemade spirit from Chuka, mixed with water. The taste was surprisingly 
good, but nothing would have matched a cold beer. 

Restoring the rock 

Tuesday 10. April: The morning ritual for the next days was to go down to the 
spring under the mango tree and have a wash and brush our teeth. From time to time 
we enjoyed pouring plastic bottles of water over each other to clean hair, heads and 
backs. Back in camp we had breakfast and then went down to the rock. Besides a close 
examination of the surroundings, our main aim for this day was to fix the metal plaque 
we had brought with us. After some discussion about different versions, we all finally 
agreed to the text which was written on the plaque in English and Hindi, followed by 
our names, including Fernando’s: 

"This is the rock where on November 30th, 1938, in the dying sec- 
onds OF DAYLIGHT, THE TIGRESS KNOWN AS THE "THAK MAN-EATER" WAS SHOT 
IN A DRAMATIC ENCOUNTER BY JlM CORBETT - INDIA'S LEGENDARY HUNTER AND 
PIONEER CONSERVATIONIST. THE TIGRESS BECAME A MAN-EATER AFTER SHE, STILL 
NURSING TWO CUBS, WAS WOUNDED TWICE BY POACHERS. ON THE 9TH - 12TH OF 

April 2012, admirers of Jim Corbett from different parts of the world, 

PAID TRIBUTE TO THIS GREAT SON OF INDIA, DEDICATED FRIEND OF TIGERS AND 
HUMBLE SERVANT OF HUMANITY." 

On the way down, we double-checked directions, distances and the site of the 
rock, studying the account of Corbett while slowly going down. In “Man-eaters of 
Kumaon” he writes: “The path (Corbett speaks about what I had called the “upper 
path”) .... joins the ridge that runs down to Chuka a quarter of a mile from Thak.... 


260 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


. Four hundred yards down the ridge the path runs for fifty yards across a flat bit of 
ground.” Up to here it was comparatively easy, but because of the many big rocks in 
the surrounding area, we now had to look closer. Let’s continue with Jim: “I want you 
now to have a clear picture of the ground in your mind, to enable you to follow the 
subsequent events. Imagine then a rectangular piece of ground forty yards wide and 
eighty yards long, ending in a more or less perpendicular rock face. The path coming 
down from Thak runs on this ground at its short or south end, and after continuing 
down the centre for twenty- five yards bends to the right and leaves the rectangle on its 
long or east side.” Following his description exactly, we entered the flat bit of ground 
on the south side and continued for twenty-five yards straight on. This was the place 
where on my first visit I had made the mistake of not turning to the right - this might 
be excused because the actual path does not turn either - but continues straight on. 
So fifty yards later, after passing “Peter Byrne’s rock”, the path indeed leaves the flat 
ground but not on the east as it should according to Corbett’s description, but on the 
north side. This time we were more careful with the directions and instead of continu- 
ing straight, we now went to the right. There was no clearly visible path: maybe some 
faint traces could be assumed. But as we did so, everything fell in place with Corbett’s 
writing:“From a little beyond where the path bends to the right, a ridge of rock, three 
or four feet high, rises and extends to the north side of the rectangle... ”We indeed 
went around this ridge that, when coming from the south, divides the flat ground in 
two parts, a left (western) one where the actual path runs today and where I in 2007 
(and also Peter Byrne in 1975) were shown a rock, and a right (eastern) one where, 
as Corbett says “at the far right-hand side of this flat ground the path skirts a big 
rock and then drops steeply...”. Following the direction of the supposed old footpath, 
you cannot avoid running straight into the rock, as Dr. Jordania discovered in 2011. 
So everything fitted Corbett’s description perfectly and when looking from the side 
of the rock you even can imagine the “hump” in which direction Corbett’s gun was 
pointing, and also the “line of bushes” between the ridge and the rock, though not as 
dense as in former times. 

Convinced we were in the right place, we looked for possible places to fix the metal 
plaque. There was a deep crack in the rock on the side of the ridge - the side from 
which the tigress approached - and this looked like the best place, where the foot of the 
plaque could be fixed with a concrete mix. Our men had brought cement from Chuka. 
They mixed it with water and our guide Kamal turned out to be not only an excellent 
guide but also an expert concrete worker. To the right of the plaque we fixed a candle 
holder, generously given to us by Mrs. Anand of Camp Corbett. We put a candle on 
it and lit it. It was a spiritual moment and we stayed silent for a while. We thought of 
Mrs. Anand’s husband Omi, who was so dedicated to the heritage of Jim Corbett and 
had passed away last year. I am sure Kotecha thought of his wife, the mother of Reyna 
and Rushika, who tragically and unexpectedly died of a heart attack not much more 


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than one year ago. Then of course we all thought of Jim Corbett himself, who led us 
together to this remote place on the Indian-Nepalese border and without whom we 
would have never met each other. And although it might sound strange, some of us 
may even have thought about the tigress. It was the place where she died and though 
being a man-eater, it was Corbett himself who said that this “is a tiger that has been 
compelled through stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien to 
it”. She was also a victim of circumstances and her man-inflicted wounds caused her 
not to be able to keep to her natural prey. 

After taking photos, we went back to Thak. This time we went by the “upper path” 
along the ridge, because we wanted to have a look at the rock that was shown to Joseph 
and me by our former guides. It was an impressive rock indeed on which Rushika 
and Reyna had fun posing for photos with Dr. Jordania, but we all agreed that neither 
the location nor the shape of the rock fitted Corbett’s description. Back in Thak we 
relaxed and enjoyed our lunch: pasta with two different sauces and rice with dal and 
chips. Before going to sleep, we celebrated our success with some sips from a whiskey 
bottle I had bought at the airport’s duty free shop. It had been a really very special day. 

Wednesday, llthApril: We went down to the rock again, this time loaded with 
digging tools. Our plan was to dig on the rear of the rock and to restore the surrounds 
to what we thought was the original state in Corbett’s time. Maybe - if we were very 
lucky - we could even find some of the cartridges Corbett had fired during the en- 
counter. For this purpose, Dr. Jordania had brought with him a small metal detector. 
The reason why we thought the rock was not in its original state was that the “falling” 
height behind the rock was considerably less than that described by Corbett (2 metres’ 
falling height instead of at least 3 metres). Corbett tells of having placed the men and 
goats immediately behind and 10-12 feet below him. After firing, and due to the recoil, 
he had lost his hold on the rock and had fallen down this space to be caught by his men 
who saved him from injuries. The lower falling height was the only thing that did not 
fit the description in the book. What Joseph assumed - and we agreed - was that the 
falling height once was deeper and had been filled up with soil and washed-down earth 
and stones over a period of more than seventy years. But this assumption could only 
be true, if during the digging, we didn’t come across solid rock. So we started digging. 
To be honest, most of this work was done by our men. They were much better, faster 
and stronger in this job and our contribution was more of showing “good will” than 
doing substantial work. We were happy to find no solid rock in the ground. Instead it 
was humus mixed with stones of different sizes. Our impression was that the falling 
area was not only filled up with humus but also with minor slides of soil and rocks 
coming down from the ridge in the rainy season. Maybe such slides were responsible 
for the relocation of the footpath from the right to the left side of the ridge, but one 
cannot know for sure. We did not find any cartridges during the digging, but when 
we stopped, there was a really good falling space behind the rock, quite similar to 


262 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


Corbett’s description. Also, while there was digging going on Kotecha and I checked 
and videoed once more the new paths, leading to the Peter Byrne rock, and the old 
path, leading to the real Corbett rock. Satisfied with the results of our digging, we 
turned to taking photos and a video reconstruction of the dramatic meeting between 
Corbett and the tigress. 

For this video Kotecha had to play the role of the tiger. We briefed him about 
which way to go and put our workers and some of our trip members in the excavated 
space behind the rock (they were impersonating four scared villagers, and the girls 
were impersonating two goats). There they had to await the arrival of the “tiger”, 
trembling with fear. It took two “takes” until the tiger went the right way and was 
caught properly by the video cameras. Then we took photos. When everything was 
done and filmed we went up to Thak again. There was still some whiskey in the bottle 
and even Joseph, who usually does not drink any kind of alcohol, joined in for a few 
sips honoring this special event. 

Back to Chuka and another rock 

Thursday, 12th April: This was kind of a buffer day for us. If necessary, we could 
have stayed one day longer in Thak, but as we were already satisfied with our results, 
we decided to walk down to Chuka, but not by the direct route we had come up, but 
on a detour via Kot Kindri and Kumaya Chak. It was the last time I went down to the 
spring for a morning wash, when suddenly the overcast sky opened up and the sun 
threw beautiful rays of light on the Tala Des ridge at the opposite side of the Ladhya 
valley. I hadn’t expected this and had to run back to my tent to grab a camera and run 
down again to record the beautiful scenery. Light fell on some small villages below the 
top of the Tala Des ridge that had not been visible in the dull light of the last few days. 
I thought about the story of Corbett hunting the Tala Des tigers where he writes of a 
very steep ascent and that he spent the night in the only hamlet 1000 feet below the 
top on the southern side of the 4000-foot-high ridge. From here we could see this side 
of the ridge where now were at least three hamlets, whose roofs reflected the shining 
rays of the morning sun. Later, when we stood at the verandah of Hoshiar Singh’s 
brother’s house in the village of Thak, our guide even showed us the footpath which 
Corbett probably used. Following some slight contours of smaller ridges in front of 
the main ridge, it was not strictly horizontal, but was indeed very steep and without 
any hairpin bends just as Corbett described it. 

After breakfast our men packed up the tents and loaded the waiting ponies. I told 
you yet that “ponies” here in India are not a special breed of small horses as in other 
countries. It was a kind of common name for every animal resembling a horse that 
could carry a load - be it donkey, mule or something in between. While the so-called 
“ponies” went the direct route to Chuka, we made a detour which meant going up 
the ridge above Thak, than slightly down to Kot Kindri and from there further and 


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steeper down to Chuka. I heavily underestimated the climbing time because I had 
done it on my last visit in the opposite direction. What was less than half an hour 
downhill on a cool afternoon was now two hours of climbing up a steep gradient on 
a hot and sunny day. But of course the steep ascent included longer stops and a very 
interesting discovery! 

Since the time of our arrival in Thak, I had thought about the location of the events 
surrounding the third victim of the Thak Man-eater. You may remember Corbett’s 
account of the 27th October when he and Ibbotson entering Thak “at the edge of the 
cultivated land” came to the place where a man had fallen victim to the tigress. Accord- 
ing to Corbett’s description, it was at the border of Thak when coming up from Chuka. 
I imagined it to be not far from where the path (the so-called “upper path”) before 
entering Thak bends to the left, while the path to Kot Kindri goes straight on. There 
is a hillside to the right which could be the one where the tigress waited concealed, 
before attacking the man on the field. As Corbett wrote, she carried the man (still alive) 
for 200 yards, then she killed him but was attacked by buffaloes and for several hours 
she left the body on the ground. Later she picked up the body and continued for half 
a mile more, keeping “to the contours of the hill”, till she reached the ridge “beyond 
which lay the valley in which, 6 month previously, we had tracked down and killed 
the Chuka man-eater. On this ridge was a great slab of rock, which sloped upwards 
and away from the direction in which we had come”. Corbett was sure that the tigress 
“was lying up under the over-hanging portion of it, or in the close vicinity.”The ridge 
Corbett was writing about, was the same ridge we had just struggled up and beyond 
which lay Kot Kindri and the valley, where Corbett had killed the Chuka man-eater. I 
shared these thoughts with my friends and during our climb we looked out for a rock 
that might fit this description. We could not believe our luck when, on the immediate 
right side of the path and just in the expected distance from Thak, we saw a rock that 
fitted Corbett’s description very well. It was Priyvrat who noticed the rock first. The 
rock was 4-5 metres high and sloped away from the footpath that passed the rock 
uphill. As Kotecha’s effort proved, the sloping rock was not difficult to climb from this 
side. Very much like Jim Corbett, he went up and looked over the top. From the other 
side the rock was nearly perpendicular with a slight caving near the ground that could 
well be interpreted as an overhanging space. It would have been sufficient space for a 
tiger and also the flat ground behind the rock could serve as a good resting place. You 
would not expect to find a tiger resting here today because of the vicinity of a seldom 
frequented footpath, but things surely were different in Corbett’s time. If this was the 
rock - and it might well be so - then Corbett had to circle around and come from the 
upper side where the footpath now is, while the tiger have rested on the valley side of 
the rock. If this scenario is right, then Kotecha’s video-documented experiment proves 
that the tiger, if looking in the right direction, was able to see Corbett’s head, before 
he in turn could see the resting tigress. This indeed happened and Corbett’s attempt 


264 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


was unsuccessful this time. But was this the rock where Corbett tried to stalk the 
tigress? I cannot tell for sure, because we did not search the surroundings for other 
and maybe better alternatives. But the rock we saw fits surprisingly well with Corbetts 
description, and I would rate it a really good probability. You can see the photo of this 
rock, together with many other places, in the book. And of course, you can see also 
this rock and Kotecha climbing it in our documentary DVD of the trip... 

After crossing the top of the ridge approximately 500 metres above Thak, we con- 
tinued towards Kot Kindri. The footpath was now mostly level or even sloping slightly 
downwards, dropping steeper before Kot Kindri. We saw leopard droppings on the 
path and Kamal collected a porcupine quill, a beautiful ornament, of a milky colour 
with a few black contours, thick as a pencil, hard as mica glass and sharp as a needle. 
As we know, such porcupine quills had been responsible for turning several tigers into 
man-eaters. Roughly halfway between Thak and Kot Kindri we stood on top of the 
large ravine in which Corbett finally managed to kill the Chuka man-eater. The big 
ficus tree, where he sat in wait, is no longer there - according to a letter from Peter 
Byrne, it fell in 2001, but you can well imagine the whole scenery in this deep and dark 
green ravine overgrown with bushes and trees. Where the footpath crosses the ravine, 
there is a spring and a small pool of water. The water trickles down into the valley, 
providing humidity to the lush green vegetation. In Kot Kindri we had our lunch in 
front of the school building and were offered cool and fresh water. The school was a 
secondary school. After five years of primary school in Chuka, children had to travel 
here daily for five more years. We enjoyed the scenic outlooks over the village and 
down into the Ladhya valley before going steeply down to Chuka. On the way passed 
the only spring of Kot Kindri village overlying the supposed old mango plantation of 
1938 where the first victim of the Thak tigress was carried when gathering windfalls. 
It was somewhere on the path we now went down that the Chuka man-eater appeared 
for the first time when he attacked two men returning from the Tanakpur market. 
Fortunately the man the tiger sprang upon was saved by a sack of sugar on his back. 
Two thirds down, we passed the open ground of Kumaya Chak on our right side, 
where the labour camps stood. We looked up the ridge the tigress went over to meet 
her fate while being called up by Corbett. 

Shortly before Chuka, the footpath from Kot Kindri joins the one from Thak and 
we reached our campground in the late afternoon. We were too exhausted to make 
use of the very modern and sophisticated angling equipment our guide had provided 
for us. But nonetheless we had “anglers’ luck” while resting, because our men caught a 
big fish, trapped in a net at Sem. It was a big 10-pound mahseer - big of course only 
by our standards as a mahseer can weigh up to 50 pounds and more. Joseph asked: 
“Shall we eat or release it?” My spontaneous reply: “Eat it, of course!” All agreed and 
we had a wonderful dinner with Corbett’s favorite fish: one part grilled with a basting 
of cucurma or Indian saffron and a little red chili powder and mashed onions, the 


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other as fish curry. While enjoying the tasty fish, we had a discussion about the quality 
of different sweet water fish. Priyvrat remembered a very special fish in Assam called 
“Ruha”. I mentioned the similar-tasting barramundi very highly ranked in northern 
Australia, but we all agreed that the Indian mahseer is at least one of the best tasting 
sweet water fishes in the world. 

Walking back and a cold night in Champawat 

Friday, 13th April: The last day of our trekking! I woke up at 6 o’clock and went 
down to the Sharda for a bath, and then sat on a stone beside the river, making notes 
for my diary. Because of some rain in the last days, the water was cooler, and not as 
pleasant as on the day of our arrival (Joseph told me later that Ladhya would have 
been a better choice, as it was warmer). Back at the tent I woke Priyvrat, who was still 
sleeping. After breakfast and tipping our men - each one got 1000 Rs for the excel- 
lent service - we packed our tents. Shortly after 9 o’clock we were on our way back to 
Thuligad. Young Reyna was not well this morning, so Kotecha engaged a man from 
the village to carry her on his back from time to time. After two hours, we made a 
short break at the Kaldhunga Rest House. When continuing our walk, I felt a growing 
weakness and started falling behind. I might have run out of my glucose reserves be- 
cause after drinking some mouthfuls of a Glucon-D mixture, which Kamal prepared 
for me at the next stop, I felt much better. Instead of trotting behind, I now went in 
front feeling like some sort of a trekking robot. In a big ravine not far ahead of the 
Sharda gorge, we had lunch, washed it down with a refreshing grapefruit juice mixture, 
observed a goral on the hillside and dozed away for 30 minutes before continuing 
the walk. Shortly before 4pm we arrived at Thuligad, where taxies to Tanakpur were 
already waiting for us. Here we stopped at the KMWN Rest House for a cold drink 
and to discuss our further plans. On the wall of the rest house there was a big plaque 
showing all the Corbett man-eaters in the Champawat district and the year Corbett 
had killed them. We discussed what we thought to be a false entry of a Ladhya valley 
man-eater. We thought it to be the same tiger, the Chuka man-eater, but there was 
another opinion from Kotecha as well. 

The discussion about the next part of the trip was a bit annoying as it became 
apparent that Anup, the tour operator, had not organized anything besides providing 
cars and drivers. Perhaps he thought there would always be a room left in a KMWN 
Rest House. For the night in Champawat this was all right, but for the following nights 
it turned out that a KMWN Rest House in the Chowgarh area did not exist. The best 
available option seemed to be to stay at Kamal’s Camp near Mukhteshwar. This was no 
really satisfying solution because of the great distance to Kala Agar, but it was Friday 
evening and bookings for the weekend were no longer possible in the much better 
placed Okhalkanda Forest Rest House. Kamal said he would try for it on Monday. Not 


266 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


wanting to lose more time we agreed and at 5.30pm started with two cars and drivers 
for the 70 km drive to Champawat. 

Behind Tanakpur, the road went steeply up before descending again into the valley 
of the Ladhya. We crossed the river in Chalti in the last light of day. The road wound 
over mountains and through valleys and was very rough with potholes and unpaved 
sections but the scenery was truly spectacular. The going was slow and it was after 
8 pm, when we entered the rest house at Champawat. There we found the room for 
Kotecha and the girls fine and ready, while the other one which Dr. Jordania, Priyvrat 
and I were to share, was still closed and nobody could find the key for the big lock, 
hanging in front of the door. Equipped with a hammer and brute force the housekeep- 
er tried to solve the problem, but still it was not so easy. When a few minutes later 
the key was found, there was now the problem of a damaged lock. . . Fortunately, after 
several tries the key worked and we could finally enter the room. We put our baggage 
inside and I went with the drivers to the town center, to organize food and some bot- 
tles of beer for the evening. At the local “wine shop” I was very impressed by the big 
iron bars, which fenced the shop from the waiting people - looking like the Bank of 
England. Priyvrat who was not very fond of beer suggested we should bring a bottle 
of red wine from the so called “wine shop”, but when I asked for it, the shop keeper 
did not even know what I was talking about. The only bottle he could show me when 
I asked for “red wine” was dark brandy. It turned out that “wine” here was a synonym 
for any kind of spirit and I had to disappoint Priyvrat in this respect. I bought some 
bottles of the only brand of beer that was available, a rather strong one with up to 
8% alcohol. The beer was not chilled because of a broken refrigerator, but because of 
the low temperatures in Champawat this was no real problem. Due to the height of 
nearly 2000 metres above sea level and also due to unusual cold weather conditions 
the temperature was down to an estimated 8-10 degrees. It was hard to imagine that 
only a few hours earlier we were suffering in the heat. We put the beer on the balco- 
ny where it soon reached drinking temperature and had a late dinner at 9.30 o’clock. 
The chicken curry tasted fine and it was more than we could eat. The first beer since 
several days was a pleasure, though strong and rather heavy it was definitely no match 
for Kingfisher. After discussing the plan for the next day, we went to our rooms and 
wrapped ourselves in thick woolen blankets for the cold night ahead. 

Champawat and saying good bye to Joseph and Priyvrat 

Saturday, 14th April: In the morning we unwrapped ourselves from the double 
layer of thick blankets that had prevented us from being cold and enjoyed a pot of hot 
chai to warm up. Shortly before nine, we got into our cars for the Champa gorge, where 
in 1907 Jim Corbett had killed the notorious Champawat man-eater, responsible for 
436 human victims. Champawat is now a busy provincial capital and its name means 
“temple of the goddess Champa”, that is the eldest sister of Purnagiri. After passing 


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267 


the main bazaar, we wanted to turn right at the Tala Des road, from where on my 
last visit I had looked down to the gorge and thought I had also found the bungalow 
where Corbett stayed during the hunt. That we missed the crossing and went further 
on turned out to be a very lucky mistake, because it brought us much nearer to the 
site of the dramatic events. Following the main road and at the end of the village we 
passed the bridge over the Champa and immediately afterwards it turned right. At 
a fork some hundred metres later we took the right one slightly downhill. The small 
road now followed the Champa gorge on the far side of the town. On my last visit I 
went down into the gorge from here. But this time we went a bit further on and we 
were lucky to do so. Just as we were thinking about turning around we saw ahead 
of us the end of the gorge and at a distance of one mile a little village. Thinking we 
might have driven too far, we asked the keeper of a small shop we just had passed, 
if he knew something about Jim Corbett. He told us the village’s name as Gaudi, the 
place where (according to Peter Byrne) the tigress took its last victim and from where 
Corbetts hunt started. And of course he did know Jim Corbett. The old Dak bungalow 
where Corbett stayed during the hunt had been on top of a hill above the village. But 
it no longer existed. I was a bit confused, because I thought of Gaudi as being on the 
other side of the gorge and I was also convinced that I had seen the Dak bungalow 
there in 2007. But the shopkeeper gave us the impression that he knew what he was 
talking about very well and so my former interpretations might have been wrong. We 
had to find out. 

When we asked about the place the man-eater was shot he said, we had driven too 
far and accompanied us back for 400 metres to show the way. Here he advised us to 
leave the car and to go in the direction of the gorge. While he went back to his shop, we 
followed a small and scarcely visible footpath down an approximately 300-metres on 
the ridge, stretching itself like a big nose in one of the bends of the Champa River, flow- 
ing some 100 metres below us. The footpath was steep only in parts and when halfway 
down, we suddenly realized that we were just entering the big natural amphitheatre, 
probably the one of which Corbett gave such an impressive description. We stopped 
for a careful study of his words. While pondering about organizing the beat, Corbett 
was sitting “on the south edge of a great amphitheatre of hills, without a habitation of 
any kind in sight. A stream entering from the west had fretted its way down, cutting 
a deep valley right across the amphitheatre. To the east the stream had struck solid 
rock, and turning north had left the amphitheatre by a narrow gorge.” Looking around 
and with the help of Joseph’s compass checking the given directions, everything fell in 
place. We were going down the southern slope and on the opposite side of the gorge 
was the high ridge, where the beaters then stood. But where was the “projecting rock” 
on which the tigress made her last stand? We had to go deeper. It was not possible to 
reach the bottom safely from here - though Corbett had done it in a run - and so we 
stopped some 30 metres above the river, perhaps near the place where the Tehsildar 


268 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


stopped. Now we could clearly see the flat black projecting rock and even the ledge on 
its left side by which the wounded animal walked up. The rock - roughly 7-8 metres 
long and three metres high - was on the opposite side of the river and approximately 
7 metres above the river (see the photo of the rock in a special chapter dedicated to 
Champawat tigress killing site). The dark colored upper side corresponded with the 
brighter color of the lower side that was probably washed clean by the high waters of 
the Champa River in the countless monsoon seasons. So at last we stood in front of 
the dramatic scenery of Corbetts last encounter with the Champawat man-eater in 
1907. We took photos and sat down for a while, to get familiar with the place and to 
connect with events that happened here more than 100 years ago. 

Going up the ridge again, we discussed some other moments of Corbett’s 1907 
hunt: where was the blasted pine tree, where Corbett wanted to give the signal for 
starting the beat? Which way did Corbett go the day before when following the tigress 
who was carrying her last victim? Let us try to imagine: The kill must have been near 
Gaudi on our side of the gorge. Corbett followed the tigress “round the shoulder of 
a hill” (maybe near the place where we met the shopkeeper) and later “straight down 
the very steep hill” and following a “steep watercourse” (maybe near to where we 
walked now, because we had passed an old and empty watercourse). Then he passed 
a “great pinnacle of rock some thirty feet high” where Corbett advised the following 
man to climb and wait for him (we didn’t see anything like this as we did not follow 
the watercourse of course) and went down to a small pool at the junction with a big 
ravine, where he found the severed leg of the victim. Here, after making the grisly 
find, Corbett for a few seconds forgot about the tigress and was nearly killed by the 
man-eater. He was only saved by his superb jungle feel and the heightened sense for 
danger. The “big ravine” must have been the Champa gorge the man-eater had crossed 
with its victim, the place where Corbett left the animal and where the beat begun was 
on the other side. 

Let me add here a story of the girl that was probably this last victim. I cannot 
guarantee its truth but I had heard it five years ago from a herdsman who is one of 
the priests of Purnagiri and who knew the story of Corbett well. Before showing us 
the way to the gorge he told us that the young girl was only a few days married when 
she accompanied her mother collecting leaves. Her mother did not want her to come 
along. “Stay at home”, she said, “you are just married”. But the girl insisted on com- 
ing. She did not want the mother to go alone because of the danger of the lurking 
man-eater. While collecting the leaves, the tiger suddenly sprang upon the girl. Her 
mother was clinging to the girl and did not want to let her go, but the tiger managed 
to get her free and disappeared with the girl. A really sad story that Corbett doesn’t 
mention in his book, but very probably this was the girl whose corpse he followed the 
day before shooting the tiger. 


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Back on the forest road, noon had already passed and we had to return to the rest 
house. Dr. Jordania and Priyvrat had to start their 7-9 hour drive to Delhi Airport to 
catch their flights the following morning. So at the rest house Kotecha, Reyna, Rushika 
and I sadly said goodbye to our friends. We agreed to stay in touch and that we would 
try to arrange another adventure on Corbett’s (or maybe Anderson’s) footsteps for our 
newly formed “MAGI-Group” (not exactly Corbett’s Maggie, but symbolizing: Mau- 
ritius- Australia-Germany- India, our homelands). The next time of course fortified 
with our friend Fernando from Brazil! We waved at the departing car and wished we 
could have stayed together for the rest of our trip. But it had not been possible and 
Kotecha, the girls and I were now on our own, to investigate some more questions in 
Champawat and also in Chowgarh. 

There were still questions concerning Champawat - at least for me. Not that I was 
in doubt about the place we had found, but if this was true, then something was wrong 
with my imagination about places and rest houses in 2007. 1 felt I could only be fully 
satisfied after having checked the places I had seen. Impatiently I suggested looking 
for some new information during the remainder of the afternoon, but Kotecha was 
right: we needed rest after our strenuous days. So we retired to our rooms and met 
again at 6pm to go out for dinner and then home again to kill the last three bottles of 
beer that had been left from the previous evening. 

Answering the last questions in Champawat and going to Chowgarh 

Sunday 15th April: Heavy rains fell in the night and morning was still wet, cool 
and cloudy. After a cup of tea we packed our baggage in the car and went off to answer 
some more questions around the Champawat story before proceeding to Okhalkanda. 
Yes indeed, Okhalkanda! Mr. Shankar Singh Bakhuni, our very kind driver of the 
second leg, and Kamal the trekking guide were using the phone all during our stay 
in Champawat till they got it right. Maybe our drivers’ acquaintance with the Chief 
Medical Officer of Nainital was helpful too for they finally could confirm the booking. 
We only had to bring our own food because there was no restaurant at Okhalkanda, 
but someone would be there to do the cooking for us. We were happy to hear this 
because now we could stay much closer to the Chowgarh site. I think this is the right 
place to praise the qualities of Kamal Bisht. Not only an excellent and prudent guide, 
he was always perfectly equipped for anything that might happen (remember the 
Loperamid for Reyna and the Glucon-B for me), and everything he organized was 
to be relied onl00%. In this case, together with the driver, he had solved a problem 
overnight and even on a weekend, that Anup should have done much earlier. When we 
said good bye to him in Thuligad we wanted to tip him for his excellent service, but he 
very determinedly refused, thinking it not to be appropriate for the responsible man 
of the trek. Not to be unjust to Anup, he is mainly a taxi operator and the transport 


270 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


services he provided were fine and reliable, and were fairly priced. But for organizing 
the rest, Kamal was definitely the right person. 

Back to Champawat: Five years ago I looked down into the Champa gorge from 
the other side from where we did yesterday and I was convinced of having seen the 
Dak bungalow there and also the village of Gaudi. But taking into account our findings 
the day before, there was something wrong with this assumption. It had to be checked 
before going on. This time we did not miss the Tala Des road 500 metres behind the 
main bazaar where we turned right at the blue road sign to Tamuli, 50 kilometres 
ahead. This road at first follows roughly the direction of the Champa gorge on the near 
side of Champawat. There was much building activity around, so it was not easy to stay 
on the main road. At a distance of a bit more than five kilometres the bungalow above 
the Champa gorge was still there. It is the one Peter Byrne shows in his book as the 
bungalow where Corbett had stayed. But this was not the case. It turned out to be the 
wrong side of the gorge indeed. The village here was not Gaudi but was called Fungar. 
This also explained his name as the “Fungar bungalow”, as Byrne correctly called it. 
Despite being not the right one, it was worth the detour anyway. The bungalow was 
a very old building and might well have existed in the days of the hunt and probably 
was very similar in shape to the one above Gaudi, which is no longer there. No one 
knows how long this one will still exist. Much had changed in the last years. A new 
house had been built on the ground and the bungalow seemed to serve as a cattle 
shed now. A new two-meter-high stone wall encircled the house and the bungalow, 
obviously private property now. But we were lucky again. The metal door stood wide 
open, so we could go in and walk around to take some photos. 

Satisfied with our findings we went back to Champawat, crossed the bridge over 
the Champa again and as yesterday turned right onto the small forest road to Gaudi. 
We hoped to get some more information about the location of the Dak bungalow, 
where Corbett had stayed. Entering the forest road, we looked at our meter for the 
exact distances. If someone wishes to find the places by himself, here is some advice. 
After entering the forest road, look at your meter and follow the road for exact 4.4 
kilometres. Just before the road bends to the left, on the right side there is a small 
space sufficient for one or two cars. Leave your car here and go down the ridge to your 
right for about 300 metres or a bit more. If you miss the right place on the road, 400 
metres later you will come to a place with a small shop on the left and a temple on 
the right side. You can drink chai and ask the shopkeeper as we did, or simply turn 
around and drive back for 400 metres where the amphitheatre and the hunting place 
is now to your left. 

When we reached the shop we realized that the unpaved road descended rather 
steeply down to Gaudi. Because of the rains the conditions were slippery and it seemed 
too risky to proceed without four-wheel Drive. So Kotecha and I went out to check the 
surroundings. In front of us was the valley in which roughly one mile ahead and some 


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200 metres deeper lay the small village of Gaudi. To our left was a ridge approximately 
200 metres higher than us and sloping in the direction of Gaudi. Somewhere on this 
ridge had to be the location of the Dak bungalow, where Corbett stayed during the 
hunt. We were sure this was the “long sloping hill”, from where Corbett saw the man 
running up to him and telling him about the last victim of the tigress, the young girl. 
From where we stood now, a footpath led in the direction of the ridge. Leaving Reyna 
and Rushika with the driver, Kotecha and I followed this path, hoping to get a clearer 
view of the situation. After 15 minutes of walking the path reached the yards of two 
houses. Stopping for a moment, we were soon invited in by the owners. In the court- 
yard, surrounded by blooming and delicate smelling citrus trees, Kotecha had a talk 
with the house inhabitants but brought no news about Corbett and the Dak bungalow. 
After having a smoke together, we were invited to follow two men on a shortcut down 
to the forest road, from where we could easily return to our car. This slippery track 
passed a shack from where our companions took a goat to accompany us on the way 
up. Going up and looking at the ridge, we speculated about the former position of the 
Dak bungalow. It had to be on this ridge and in clear view of the village. Even though 
Corbett tells about looking down a long sloping hill, it is hard to imagine - be it only 
for practical reasons - that a governmental bungalow was built on top of a ridge nearly 
400 metres high. I imagined it to be on a small hilltop on the lower part of the ridge 
not more than 100 metres above the village, but this is only a guess of course. Kotecha 
thought it could be anywhere. Back at the car we said goodbye to the villagers and 
had a last chai with the shopkeeper who had meanwhile arrived. His name was Gopal 
Singh Bahra, grandson of Dhungar Singh who, as a boy of seven years, had assisted 
in the beat and later told the story to his son and grandson. We considered ourselves 
lucky having met him and thanked him for all his useful information. After saying 
goodbye, we went into our car and drove back along the forest road to Champawat - 
probably the same road the Tehsildar went when he left Corbett for the night in the 
haunted Dak bungalow - and from there we continued in the direction of Lohargat 
and Debidura. 

An interesting encounter in Pali and well informed boys in Debidura 

The road went steeply up to Lohaghat. It was around noon and we stopped at a 
small food stall for some pakoras and a cold drink. We tried to buy food that could 
be cooked in the evening, but did not find a shop to our taste. The driver told us of 
a better one in Pahrapani and so we went on after buying a supply of beer at a local 
wine shop. To our delight, they sold Kingfisher, but it was not the refreshing regular 
one but some strong brand with 8% alcohol. Maybe for the low temperatures in the 
mountains or for the remote and isolated location the people here seemed to prefer 
very strong and - as we felt - slightly depressing beers, but “Kingfisher Strong” was a 
comparatively good one. 


272 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


From Lohaghat the small road wound its way through picturesque villages, though 
the snow-crested mountains of the big Himalayans I had admired on my last visit were 
hidden behind clouds. The road went downhill when the village of Pati came into view. 
Pati, or Pali as it was called in Corbett’s time, is situated on top of a long mountain ridge 
whose left side is covered with terraced fields and open grounds while on the right 
there is a steep descent. Pati has grown and not much reminds of the small village of 
about 50 inhabitants through which Corbett passed on his way to Champawat where 
he mounted guard while the wheat crop was being cut and where he had a very dan- 
gerous night watch on the first day of his career as a hunter of man-eating tigers and 
leopards. It was time for a break and a cup of chai and so we stopped at the crossing 
where the village road forked to the left and went upwards through the centre of Pati. 
After finishing the chai, I went up there to take some photos, while Kotecha and the 
girls stayed with the car. Coming back 20 minutes later, Kotecha told me of a very 
interesting talk he had with an old man at the bus stop. As usual Kotecha asked if he 
knew Jim Corbett and the old man really did. He told him that Corbett and his men 
often took water from the old well at the crossing that was still in use and constantly 
frequented by the villagers. He was told by his father that Corbett and his men camped 
behind that well on beside the village road and that the tiger had killed the woman 
in the terraced fields on the left side behind the houses. He also confirmed that the 
village had been called “Pali” in earlier times and showed Kotecha the place where 
Corbett shot the mountain goat to get food for his men and impressed the villagers 
with his shooting mastery. 

It was on the right side of the village and the main road - right behind the bus 
stop - where the ridge descends very steeply for some hundreds of metres. Today the 
valley was covered in clouds, but there were some brief moments when the clouds 
opened up and the hillside came in view. It was there where Corbett went down a “very 
steep ridge” and where at a range of 200 yards, he fired at three “ghorals” that rolled 
down the hill nearly to Jim’s feet. This caused the villagers to exclaim that Corbett 
had used “magic bullets” that “had not only killed the animals . . . but had also drawn 
them to the shahib’s feet.” It was a pity, that at the moment before I returned, the old 
man had to say goodbye because his bus had arrived. He had a big black goat with 
him which was meant to be sacrificed in Dhunaghat to remove an evil curse. Kotecha 
was interested in whether he had to pay the bus driver for the very big goat “No sir”, 
the man called back, “goat comes as goods and does not pay!” 

The road now climbed up through the former territory of the “Temple tiger” till 
we reached Devidhura, “the mountain of the goddess”. The village and the temples are 
situated on the pointed top of a forest-covered mountain. Behind a colourful new tem- 
ple, the old one - playing a part in the story of the temple tiger - clings itself to a rock 
niche in the form of a human ear. In front of this temple we met three young men who 
were well accustomed to the story of Jim Corbett. The lads were cousins and one of 


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them was working for the Devidhura Forest Office, while another younger lad’s father 
is from the Divisional Forest Office of Champawat, the main one. With them we went 
to a viewpoint from where we had spectacular views over the valley below. I thought 
this to be the Panar valley, where Corbett hunted the notorious man-eating leopard, 
whose hunting grounds reached up to this place. When I asked them about Panar, 
the young men to my astonishment claimed not having heard anything about it. But 
soon it turned out to be only my mispronunciation. It had occurred to me before that 
those slightly different pronunciations could cause complete incomprehension. Once 
on the Tala Des road I had asked for the village of “Tala Kote”, the place where Corbett 
shot the Tala Des tigers. Nobody seemed to know it. But when I later said “Tula Kot”, 
they understood immediately and showed it to me at once. Same here: nobody had 
ever heard of “Panar”. But when pronounced on the second syllable as “Panar”, things 
were completely different: “Of course sir, it is here, his very valley you are looking at.” 
When talking about the Panar leopard, the lad who worked for the forest department 
said that it was killed near the “Bhanouli” village, and showed us the direction. Surely 
that’s also a deviation from Corbett’s spelling of “Sanouli” in Temple Tiger. 

Leaving the viewing point, we went to the Forest Rest House where the same met- 
al plaque as in Champawat showed the man-eaters killed by Corbett in this district. 
Again there was that mysterious Ladhya Valley man-eater we thought to be only a 
confusion with the Chuka tiger. Kotecha talked with them about this topic and because 
I was not able to keep up with their debate and it is an important subject for Kotecha, 
I let him tell it in his own words: “Manfred is right. This is an interesting subject for 
me, but all our group members may not agree and we’ve already had disagreements 
about it. The three lads we had met translated for us the Hindi written on the wall 
and said that it was found in the records of the Devidhura Forest Office archives that 
Jim Corbett stayed at this Dak bungalow (they said dak mean postal services) in 
1909. The building is a newer one, but built on the ruins of the old one, only some 50 
metres behind the temple. The exact date in 1909 is inscribed on the wall. But here 
there is already a contradiction with the book Temple Tiger which says 1910! The 
most interesting part of the story comes from the lad whose father is at the Division- 
al office in Champawat. He says his father works with a project of the Champawat 
Touricm Authority, an undertaking of the Uttarakhand State Government, for making 
the district’s forest areas a tourist attraction and that the KMVNs created all around 
Uttarakhand is part of the project Wildlife and forest conservation is the second aim 
and restoring Corbett’s legacy in the area is the third. He says that the divisional forest 
office of Champawat was the first to dig through old records of all the ancient imperial 
forest offices of their division and has made a booklet on Corbett’s legacy out of it, 
available for tourists in the rest-houses. The condensed information of the booklets is 
also painted in all forest offices walls of the Champawat districts and their respective 
KMVNs. When I questioned them about the Ladhya valley man-eater whose date is 


274 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


shown on the painting, they told me that five man-eaters were found to have been 
shot by Jim Corbett in this division, namely, the Champawat tigress in 1907, the tal- 
la-desh tigress with two sub-adults in 1929, the chukka tiger in April 1938 (while the 
Jim Corbett book says April 1937), the Thak tigress in November 1938, and finally 
the Ladhya valley man-eater in May 1946. The man working at the forest office then 
intervened to say that the last man-eater had been recorded in the books without a 
mention of the place where it was shot, adding that it was a male tiger and “we can get 
the same information with more details at the Divisional Forest Office at Champawat, 
perhaps with the archives also.” 

Our next stop was Paharpani. At a shop the driver knew we bought everything we 
needed for the cook to prepare our dinner: bread, rice, dal, flour, spices, vegetables and 
snacks for the night. I remembered Paharpani from my last visit. The old rest house 
was on top of a low hill above the village It was built in 1914 under the surveillance 
of J.E. Carrington Turner, at this time an officer of the district’s forest department. In 
his book “Man-eaters and Memories”, he tells the thrilling story of how, during the 
construction, he stayed as a guard because of the threat of a man eating tiger in the 
vicinity. Carrington-Turner killed the beast not far away from the shop, where we had 
bought the food. But this is another story. At Dhanachuli we turned left for Okhalkan- 
da which we reached half an hour and 18 kilometres later at the last light of the day. 
There were two large and comfortable rooms, one for Kotecha, Rushika and Reyna and 
the other for me. The caretaker lit them very romantically with candles, but the real 
reason was an electricity failure. Soon the electric light came back and the caretaker, 
who did also the job of a cook, provided us after a long waiting period, during which 
we had to satisfy the worst of our hunger with beer and crisps, with a fine and filling 
meal of fried vegetables and rice. It was after 11pm when we went to sleep, Kotecha 
and I thinking of the place we hoped to find tomorrow - the big rock formed like a 
giant school slate, where Corbett met the man-eating tigress of Chowgarh. 

Kala Agar and the "giant school slate” 

“The rock about which I have said so much I can best describe as a giant school 
slate, two feet thick at its lower end, and standing up - not quite perpendicularly - on 
one of its long sides. As I stepped clear out of the giant slate, I looked behind me over 
my right shoulder and - looked straight into the tigress’s face...” 

I thought it would be easy. Kotecha had asked me earlier if one and a half days 
would be enough to reach the place we wanted to find: the “giant school slate” where 
Corbett had his thrilling encounter with the tigress in the afternoon of the 11th April 
1930. I replied that probably half a day would be enough, because I was so sure that 
I had been very near it five years ago. Following Corbett’s description, I had looked 
down into a ravine in a valley below the forest road, which I was sure to be the right 
one. The only question for me was whether the “giant school slate” was still to be seen. 


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Unlike mountainous Thak region, the location here was a ravine with waters running 
through it every year. Since the time I looked down from above I felt sorry about not 
having gone down for an inspection. It was late afternoon then and we still had to go 
the long way to Mukteswar, but nevertheless I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity. 
This was unfinished business for me and an important reason for coming back to this 
place. This time Kotecha would accompany me and we would look and find the right 
place, whether the “school slate” was there or not. But of the actual location I was very 
sure, maybe a bit too sure. But let us start at the beginning. 

Monday, 16th April: When we woke up at the rest house, it was a beautiful morn- 
ing and a bright sunny day. Going outside, Kotecha warned me of some aggressive 
monkeys in the garden, but when I arrived they had already gone. On the side of the 
house there was a big leopard trap. A longish cage with two compartments: one for the 
bait, a goat maybe, and the other one for the leopard to enter. I had seen such traps 
in documentaries on how to remove problem leopards, but it was a strange feeling 
to have one in front of your own doorstep. But no goat was inside and the trap had 
only been left there for occasional use by the forest department. Okhalkanda is very 
scenically located at the plateau of a hill that from here slopes steeply down to the 
river Gola. On the other side of the valley, 20 kilometres away is a Kala Agar ridge, 
which raises more than 2000 metres high. 

We started at 9.30am. The small road descends with many bends through forests 
and terraced fields down to the river Gola. There are small villages on the way, some 
of them like the village of Pakhari, mentioned in Corbett’s story as some victims of the 
Chowgarh tigress came from these villages. Even in Okhalkanda (then called Ukhald- 
hunga) and in the still more distant Paharpani the tigress claimed one victim each in 
the official reports. It is really hard to imagine that the territory of this tigress could be 
so big. Compared to tiger territories of today this would be very unusual even if you 
take into account that in the mountains the territories would be somewhat bigger than 
in the plains because of lower prey density. Was there another man-eater at the same 
time operating on the northern side of the Goula? I would like to think so, but without 
the details and the exact dates of the kills, this can only be groundless speculation. 

After crossing the Gola on a metalled bridge at Khansio, the road climbs up the 
Kala Aga ridge. After a 10-minute drive with nice views back to Khansio and the 
Goula valley, there is a turn-off to the right for Kala Agar, while the road straight on 
continues to Dalkania. We first went in the direction of Kala Agar, some 15 kilometres 
away and 5 kilometres in front of Chamoli, where the motor road ends. Kala Agar 
is a small village with scattered houses on both sides of the road. It is located on the 
northern face and around 300 yards below the top of the ridge it gave its name to. The 
girls stayed with the driver and Kotecha and I left the car for the 20-minute walk up 
to the old rest house, where Corbett and the Ibbotsons stayed during the hunt. The 
bungalow is situated between terraced fields and an old and partly overgrown wall 


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encloses the compound. There must have been some changes to the building, because 
compared to the photos Peter Byrne took some decades ago there are two chimneys 
now and a closed veranda. On my first visit, I had a look at the visitors’book with the 
clearly visible entries of Mr. and Mrs Ibbotson (1937) and Stiffle (1940). Another one 
from March 1930 which might have been Corbett’s, was no longer readable. Today 
there was no caretaker present to show us the book, only two boys had accompanied 
us on our way. Talking to them, Kotecha discovered that this bungalow was not the 
original one where Corbett had stayed. It had not been built before 1954, while the 
old one was right behind, but in decay and obviously used as a goat shed. 

It was from this bungalow Corbett went out in the afternoon of the 1 1th April 1930 
with the intention of tying three buffaloes on selected places along the forest road. At 
a point “a mile from the bungalow, where the road crosses a ridge, and goes from the 
north to the west face of the Kala Agar range” he met some men collecting firewood. 
After talking with a man whose son had been killed here a month before, he followed 
a footpath leaving the forest road in a downhill direction close to where they had 
been sitting. After an interlude tying a buffalo to a stump and staying guard on a rock 
while sensing the approach of the tigress, he went further down the footpath. After 
passing a ten-yars wide ravine, the path entered heavy undergrowth. Corbett decided 
not to enter the bushes, but to follow the more open ground of the ravine down to its 
junction with the valley. So he stepped into the ravine and 60 yards later he came to 
a deep drop of 12-14 feet. After sliding down the smooth rock, he stood in the sandy 
bed of the ravine and to his right was the 15-foot slate of rock, where Corbett met the 
tigress and the story came to an end in a dramatic showdown. 

With Corbett’s description in mind, we started our search. The forest road runs 
along the north side of the ridge and passes the bungalow at a distance of 150 yards 
on the uphill side. The connecting footpaths to the bungalow can be described using 
Corbett’s words as a “loop” around the bungalow. The “road” is between one and two 
yards wide, not built for motor vehicles, but has a solid construction with stone walls 
on the side and sometimes plaster stones on the ground. After we had proceeded for 
400 yards, on the right side and 15 yards next of the road an impressive big boulder 
came in view. It was more than 10 feet high and a closer look immediately revealed 
it as the one Peter Byrne had photographed for his book. But we could definitely 
not share his opinion that this was the one where Corbett met the tigress. We must 
admit that the shape of the rock indeed resembled Corbett’s description, but there is 
an obvious contradiction in the location. In “Shikari Sahib”, Byrne describes it with 
the following words: “About four hundred yards west of the bungalow is the ravine 
down which Corbett went to avoid the possibility of an ambush by the man-eater in 
the heavy scrub that bordered the road in those days. About a hundred feet down into 
the ravine itself is the big, smooth rock down which he and his men slid and down 
which I and my guides also slid to get into the little glade that is walled on the right 


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by the huge leaning rock slab, from behind which the tigress stalked them.” (S.316) 
But this does not coincide with the description Corbett gives us. The most obvious 
difference is the distance to the bungalow (compare 400 yards by Peter Byrne to a mile 
by Corbett, a distance of four times greater), but the “Byrne’s rock” is also much nearer 
to the forest road than it should be according to Corbett’s words. It can be seen easily 
from the road and you can reach it with a detour through light undergrowth. There is 
no ravine nearby and you don’t have to slide down to reach the rock, the composition 
of which is rough and not the smooth kind Corbett describes. But the size and the 
shape of the rock are indeed similar to Corbett’s description, so maybe Peter Byrne 
or the people who showed him the rock were mislead by that and did not check the 
other aspects, such as, most importantly, the location. 

We continued our search. Following the forest road in a western direction we 
passed cultivated land and terraced fields on the right side, while the slope left of the 
forest road is rough and uncultivated terrain with scrub, bushes and boulders up to 
the top of the ridge some 200 yards above. It very much resembled the kind of terrain 
I always had imagined in which Corbett’s close encounter with the tigress a few days 
before the successful hunt had occurred. Coming back from visiting an abandoned 
village on the other (south) side of the ridge, he made his way down to the forest 
road. Following a cattle track and approaching a pile of rocks between the ridge top 
and the road, he suddenly felt there was danger ahead. The tigress had indeed tried an 
ambush in the rough terrain, but failed due to Jim’s acute sixth sense and the warning 
call of a kakar. Looking up the bushy and rocky slope criss-crossed with cattle tracks, 
I thought of Jim’s thrilling experience. 

One mile from the bungalow - the exact distance, Corbett mentions - we came to 
the bend where the road “goes from the north to the west face of the Kala Agar range”. 
Up to this point I had made it five years ago, before the advanced afternoon forced our 
return. Looking down into the valley in front of me I made sure to look in the direction 
Corbett went downhill. Halfway down a ravine was visible and I had not much doubt 
that I saw the right place from above. But today looking carefully with Kotecha, the 
doubts concerning my former interpretation were growing. One thing was for certain: 
we were following the right trail and were close, because Corbett mentioned this bend. 
He wrote of the road crossing a ridge. Where was this ridge? On my first visit, I had 
identified it with the slope the path bends around when going from the north to the 
west face of the range (the “point X” in Kotecha’s account). But having a closer look 
now, we thought this might have been wrong because around 200 yards in front of us 
the forest road crossed a formation much more resembling a “ridge”. It was the crest 
of a longish hillside, slightly sloping to the right in the direction of Chamoli, a village 
having then paid the heavy toll of six victims to the man-eater. I had first imagined 
this formation as the opposite side of the valley where Corbett, after crossing it, wanted 
to rejoin the forest road. But now I realized - and Kotecha seconded this view - that 


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BY MANFRED WALTL 


it was not the opposite hill but the ridge that Corbett mentioned and that all the 
important events occurred not in front of it, but behind. Moreover, the forest road 
did not follow this ridge - which would be necessary for my former interpretation to 
be right - but went straight across. Only a small footpath followed the contour of the 
ridge probably heading for Chamoli. So I had to admit it was not only Peter Byrne who 
had not gone far enough, the same applied to me. To ensure this interpretation was 
correct, we went a few paces along the ridge in the direction of Chamoli and looked 
down on both sides. It was a hot day and we would probably not have the energy to 
inspect both sides because the slopes were high and steep. There were also Kotecha’s 
girls waiting for us. They were safe with the driver but might be afraid if our return 
was delayed too much. After discussing the situation once more, we agreed to rate the 
valley on the far side a much better probability and went down. 

There was no clearly visible path and we went down more or less directly, for some 
parts used faint traces of cattle tracks. Around 150 yards deeper we approached the 
entrance of a ravine. Our tension rose. The ravine was just as Corbett described “ten 
yards wide and four or five feet deep”. And as we went down the ravine, “the banks 
became higher” and just like Corbett told, sixty yards after we had entered it we came 
“on a deep drop of some twelve to fourteen feet”. Everything was absolutely right! 
When we arrived at the drop, we were convinced that soon we would stand in front 
of the “giant school slate”. To have a look at the bottom of the drop we had to under- 
take some difficult climbing down a very steep slope, trying to avoid an involuntary 
slide. The drop looked somewhat higher than described by Corbett, but decades of 
monsoon rains might well have washed it out deeper. But when we finally stood at 
the place from where we could see the bottom and then at last reached the ground, 
we did not really know what to think. Up to this point, everything had fallen in place 
perfectly, but now at first view: disappointment. No “wall of rock slightly leaning over 
the ravine” to our right and no “tumbled bank of big rocks thirty of forty feet high” to 
our left. The given height was fitting and also the sandy (and stony) bed of the ravine 
“roughly forty feet long and ten feet wide”. And, yes, there was a rock that could fit 
the description of a “giant school slate” and at first glance I really thought it to be so. 
But at a second glance, its position on the left side of the ravine and shortly before a 
bigger drop soon dampened my hopes that it could be the right one. But who knows. 
There were two interpretations possible: the first was we were simply at the wrong 
place, at a ravine, that only for parts of it resembled the right one. But there was also 
a second interpretation possible: This was indeed the right place. The location was 
just where it should be. On the upper side of the drop, everything fitted perfectly to 
Corbett’s description. And: How could we hope to find a ravine with monsoon waters 
running through every year unchanged for more than 80 years. It could affect even 
the size and the location of a big rock. There can be expected human induced changes 
too. The slopes were criss-crossed with cattle tracks and villages like Kala Agar and 


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Chamoli were not much more than one mile away. Rocks and stones were collected for 
building houses and the construction of roads. At the whole, this was a surrounding 
where changes should be expected to occur and we could not hope to find everything 
as it was in the 1930th. 

Kotecha in his account has very deliberately summarized all the pro’s and con’s of 
this place and I fully agree with him. He was disappointed too, but to a lesser degree 
than me. Maybe his expectations were more realistic, but there seemed to be also a 
kind of internal certainty that never left him, that in spite of all the changes and the 
given uncertainty, he really stood at the right place. I admit, I needed more time to 
come to the same conclusion. I was really disappointed not to find things as imagined 
them from the book. But with a second thought, I agree with Kotecha. We very prob- 
ably were at the right place, but some things simply had changed during the years. 

When we went back, we had mixed feelings. We were happy that we were at or at 
least very near the place of the “giant school slate”, but of course we were sorry that 
things had changed. The climb up to the forest road was steep and exhausting. We 
both thought of the “herculean task”, Corbett and his men took upon themselves, when 
carrying the tigress ’’with frequent halts to regain breath and readjust pads to prevent 
the pole (on which the tigress had been lashed) biting too deep into shoulder muscles”. 

Before closing this chapter, let me give some advice to anyone, who might not 
believe us being at the right place and who wants to look for himself: Go along the 
forest road in the western direction and you will have no difficulties to get to the bend, 
where the forest road goes from the north to the western side of the Kala Agar range, 
one mile to the west of the Kala Agar forest bungalow. On the way you will pass “Pe- 
ter Byrne’s rock” right hand and you can make your own judgement about it. At the 
bend, you can ponder about the location and if you share our view about the ridge, go 
ahead for roughly 200 yards, where the road crosses it. If you don’t, you can go down 
the slope on the near side of the ridge and though Kotecha doesn’t remember a dry 
nullah here, I think there is one halfway down and five years ago it looked promising 
to me. You can inspect it, but we both think now, it will be a loss of time. At the ridge, 
you can go a few paces to the right and look down into the valley at the far side. This 
is the place where we went down. If you have seen it and you still have doubts, the 
best advice I can give to you is to go still further around. I think if there is any real 
chance to find a more suiting ravine - and I think it might be a small one-you have 
to look still more distant to the bungalow than we did. Climbing up from the ravine 
to the forest road, we saw to our right a flat piece of ground covered with small to 
medium sized pine trees. Was there the “oak thicket” in Corbett’s time? I am talking 
about the place where Kotecha (and me) think the Chamoli boy was killed. See his 
sketch map for this. And in the bushes behind, could there be another ravine hidden 
from above? Of course this is only speculation without serious foundation, but if I 
would be on your place and still had time and energy to spare, I would try my luck 


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BY MANFRED WALTL 


here. But today, though not carrying a man-eating tigress on a pile, my and to a lesser 
degree I think also Kotecha’s energy was running out and we had to mobilise our last 
power, to reach the forest road. 

On the way back, I thought of Peter Byrne. We criticise some of his findings, but 
we definitely do this on the background of a great respect for his work. Without his 
book in our bag, we would have had a much harder time to get even near the right 
places. I think we improved some of Byrnes findings, as Peter was basically accept- 
ing the places that his Indian guides were showing to him, obviously without much 
questions and without checking these places sufficiently against Corbett descriptions. 
On our side, we mainly tried to follow the description that Corbett gave in his writ- 
ings, and discussed all the details with the Corbett books in our hands. But looking 
back at the false interpretations that I did on my first visit for example in Chowgarh 
and Champawat, I now know how difficult it is, to get things right, especially if you 
are alone and without friends to discuss your findings. This time it was easier with 
a group, throwing ideas and discussing theories together, and also with Kotecha and 
Priyvrat having Hindi and even Kumaoni speaking guys with us. Not to forget: Most 
of Byrne’s research work in the 1970’s was done prior to the publication of the first two 
biographies of Corbett by Kala and Booth, books we could refer to while he could not. 
Peter Byrne did the pioneer work for us, on which we could build our investigations 
and sometimes - as we think - were able to improve his findings. According to a letter 
exchange with Joseph Jordania, Byrne is still interested and enthusiastic about Corbett 
and even shared some pages of his diaries to clarify some of the details of his trips to 
Kumaon. So we all hope that Peter will appreciate our enthusiacm and does not have 
any hard feelings concerning the fact, that on some occasions we came to different 
conclusions. Once again: Big respect to his work! 

Dalkania and the story of "The Gaunt” 

Back at the car and before turning around we went the short distance to Chamoli, 
where the road ends and only a rough track continues. Construction work was being 
carried out and maybe in future years it will continue to Ranibagh and Kathgodam. 
Chamoli is only a few houses, not even a tea stall and so we soon returned. It was 
5pm and we had to decide what to do now. Should we go for Dalkania in spite of it 
being late afternoon or go back to Okhalkanda and return tomorrow. I voted for the 
latter to get a clear impression of Dalkania and photos in the light of the day, but 
there were two reasons against this. If we did so, we had to go there and back all the 
way again, with Reyna and Rushika already stressed by long drives along small and 
winding roads. The other reason was a well-known problem: Due to Anup’s relaxed 
attitude, we had no bookings in Nainital and our driver was nervous about finding 
problems if we arrived late. So we thought that a short look at Dalkania at dawn would 
be better than nothing and as it turned out, we did not regret it. After the decision 


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was made, we went back where we had come from. At the crossing we did not turn 
in the direction of the Gola valley but went right for 15 kilometres more to Dalkania. 

When we reached Dalkania it was already twilight and we were in a hurry to make 
use of the last light of day. Kotecha speaks Hindi and a bit of Kumaoni, the language 
of the region. As usual he went out and asked the first possible person he came across 
whether he knew anything about Jim Corbett. The villager had heard about him, but 
only knew that Corbett once came to this place but did not find the tiger. He told us 
instead that two days ago a leopard had killed one of his sheep and wanted to show 
us the spot of the kill some 1 km away. But soon another villager arrived and Kotecha 
asked him the same question, and also asked if he knew a man with a disfigured face? 
“You mean Kul”, the villager replied, “the man who was fighting the tiger?”. He called 
to a person in front of a shop 50 yards ahead of us. To our big surprise, it turned out 
to be Tara Dutt Bugial, the grand-nephew of Kulomani Bugial, called “Kul”. In Cor- 
bett’s story he was called “gaunt”, because of his thin shape and his disfigured face. 
He apparently passed away in 1952 and left a son, Hare Krishna Bugial, who died in 
2004. There is a living grandson named Trilochun Bugial five kilometres from here, 
who has two young sons. 

Kulomani was a woodcutter - a terrific one! They boasted about him saying that 
he was hauling logs of 15 metres long tied to his waist along sloping distances of many 
miles through forest, this after having spent a few hours felling the log. The business 
of woodcutting is carried out by the heirs now and they showed us a workshop nearby 
belonging to the family. 

There is a dramatic story about Kulomanitold in the Chowgarh account that re- 
veals the reason for the disfigured face of “The Gaunt”. While working, he was attacked 
by the man-eater. By the force of the attack, he fell on his back with the tiger being 
on top of him. The beast had buried his teeth in the right side of his face and in the 
back of its neck. Kulomani was a very strong young man at this time and so he had 
the idea that he might be able to push the tiger off and run away. Very slowly so as 
not to anger the tiger, he drew his legs up on either side of the tiger and inserted his 
bare feet against its belly. With hands and feet pushing and kicking upwards, he lifted 
the tiger right off the ground and being on the very edge of a nearly perpendicular 
hillside, the tiger went crashing down while Kulomani with his fingers firmly clutched 
a sapling, succeeded in staying where he was. The tiger was gone and Kul, assisted by 
his son, went home. He was terribly wounded for the falling tigress had taken half of 
his face with her. His relatives wanted to carry him to the next hospital at Kathgodam 
40 kilometres away, but Kul refused. He wanted to die where he had been born and 
he was very sure, he would die soon. When he tried to drink water, he could not, as 
the water came out from his neck wound left by the tiger canine. Amazingly, being a 
very strong man at the time, his wounds healed and he was able to accompany Corbett 
during the Dalkania days of the hunt. 


282 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


Talking with Tara Dutt and looking down into the Nandhour valley we asked him 
about the place where his grand uncle had experienced the attack. “Just down this 
hill and behind the white house,” he answered without hesitating. Dalkania lies very 
scenically at the eastern end of the Kala Agar ridge sloping from here in steep terraced 
fields down to the river Nandhour. The house he mentioned was at the end of terraced 
fields in front of a big fall and around 500 yards away from where we stood. He also 
showed us the site of the bear hunt at a hillside to the left, where Corbett managed to 
kill a bear with Kul’s axe. I thought it was a very interesting fact, that a verbal tradi- 
tion at a remote place without much distraction by modern media was so amazingly 
reliable over a period of more than 80 years. As a theologian I could not but think 
about the verbal tradition of the bible too. Between the death of Jesus Christ and the 
last written gospel (John around 100 CE) not more than 70 years passed - less than 
between Corbett’s hunt and today. I was surprised how reliable verbal tradition could 
preserve events that were memorable to people for a remarkably long time. What we 
experienced here with Corbetts tradition might also be true for the gospel. Maybe 
sometime I should write an article about this topic. 

Meanwhile his wife had brought chai and also his children had arrived. They 
wore so-called “lockets” around their necks, small talismans containing the ashes of 
their grandfather to drive evil spirits away. Such lockets are passed from generation 
to generation along the male line and to wear one with ashes of a very strong and 
courageous man will give the child his strength and intelligence. There was also men- 
tion that some years back the heirs of Kulomani had to regretfully part with a coat 
made of bear hide which was his property. Seemingly it was made from the hide of 
the bear that Corbett killed and gave to Kulomani. Part of it was sewn with the skin 
of the Chowgarh tigress’s cub. But now it was nearly completely dark and it was time 
to go back. We took a last photo, shook hands and congratulated ourselves on this 
very special acquaintance. Then we got into our car, said goodbye and went back to 
Okhalkanda for the night. 

A grave in Nainital and a warm welcome in Gurney House 

Tuesday, 17th April: Kotecha had realized it. I was really annoyed about the wide- 
spread practice in India of charging foreign visitors exorbitantly more than Indian in- 
habitants. I had experienced this before and it hit me again with the bill at Okhalkanda. 
As he looked like an Indian, they charged Kotecha only a nominal fee, but it was twenty 
times more for me. What added to my annoyance was that the water did not run in 
my room and I had to go to Kotecha’s and his daughter’s bathroom to take a shower 
and brush my teeth. It was not the money alone, but the feeling of unfair treatment. 
Imagine what an Indian tourist would think if, when travelling through Germany, he 
had to pay ten times more than a German guy to enter a museum or castle. He would 
call it discrimination and he would be right to do so. I certainly understand that the 


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government sometimes has to reduce prices to give local people a chance to make 
use of their local natural or cultural treasures, but if they exaggerate this practice, this 
produces feelings of discrimination and unfair treatment. Thanks to the good words of 
Kotecha I did not make a pointless attempt to express my feelings towards the officer. 
He also offered to share the costs with me, no matter what the bill was. Much more 
than for the amount of money, I was thankful for his sensibility concerning my feelings 
and his spirit of fairness. It was a big help in settling my annoyance. 

During the drive to Nainital we talked about Kenneth Anderson. Kotecha knows 
a lot about this South Indian hunter and late contemporary of Jim Corbett. We both 
liked his books and had interesting discussions about the sometimes disputed reliabili- 
ty of his accounts. A friend of Kotecha was able to look inside the books of the Kerala 
Forest Office Department, where they now keep the files from the former four depart- 
ments of Madras, Chennai, Karnataka and Mysore states, the last including Andhra 
Pradesh and the Western Ghats. He found seven of Anderson’s man-eaters confirmed 
by the Forest Department: Segur-, Jowlagiri-, Chamalavalley-, Pegepalayam-, Kempe- 
karai man-eater (Mundachipallam man-eater in the files), the panther of Gummlapur 
and the panther that killed a policeman at Jalahalli. But according to the stories in 
Anderson’s books, he must have dealt with more than 50 man-eaters and we were not 
sure what to think about the fact that there were only seven officially confirmed ones. 
In his favor, it has to be said that a declared man-eater in the official files had to have 
at least five victims. Many of the animals in Anderson’s later books had fewer, so it 
should not be expected to find them in the files anyway. But doubts remain about the 
mere number alone. We cannot decide the question here and it is also not the topic 
of this book, but at the end of our discussion we agreed that Anderson was a great 
story teller anyway who could create a very special feeling for the reader of being in 
the middle of the jungle with all its sounds, smells, dangers and all of its beauty. Facts 
aside, if he made up some of his later stories to make a better story, we certainly will 
continue to cherish reading them. 

Reaching Nainital in the early afternoon, in spite of the fears of our driver, we had 
no problem in getting a reservation at the KMVN Rest House. It was in Tallital on 
the southern end of the lake and from its terrace and balconies there were nice views 
across the lake. After a rest, we took a relaxing walk around the lake with beautiful 
views of Naina Peak in the background. At Mallital on the opposite end of lake we 
looked out for a statue of Corbett that according to Kotecha should be around. But 
there was none and nobody knew anything about it. So if there once was such a statue 
it must have gone a long time ago. Going back to the hotel along the other side of the 
lake, we passed the old Pashan Devi Temple. Jim Corbett had a lifelong friendship with 
the priest and also donated a bell for this temple. The new temple on the roadside is 
freshly colored in rather loud pink, obviously trying to achieve a modern appearance. 


284 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


But the old one is still on the lakeshore. The access being closed, we could see through 
the fencing the statue of lord Hanuman, the ape-faced god among other Hindu idols. 

Wednesday, 18th April: There were two things remaining before going back: the 
search of the family grave of Jim Corbett at St. Johns Church and a visit to Gurney 
House, the summer home of the family. St. John in the Wilderness, where Corbett 
was christened and his parents are buried, was established in 1844 and is at the north 
end of the town. The cemetery where over 150 victims of the big landslide of 1880 
also lay buried has been closed for a long time and is overgrown with weeds and 
bushes. We started the search for the graves of Christopher William Corbett (Jim’s 
father who died in 1881) and Mary Jane Corbett (Jim’s mother who died in 1924) 
from different sides. I was not sure if we would succeed in finding them because of 
the many crumbled gravestones with inscriptions nearly impossible to read. I walked 
over stones and through bushes and stood for a short while in front of a gravestone of 
a Florence Katherine Elizabeth Moad and her brother George Henry Camden Moad, 
who according to the inscription “was killed helping in the landslip September 18th 
1880 aged 32 years”. I thought of the many unknown personal stories of the past under 
each gravestone, some still readable, some completely incomprehensible and nearly 
all of them long forgotten. After an interesting and thoughtful but, concerning our 
subject, unsuccessful search I went over to Kotecha and saw him and the girls standing 
on some kind of plateau deliberately looking at the ground. It was indeed the grave of 
Corbett’s parents and Kotecha had found it by chance when going to see the people 
living in the nearby houses, to borrow tools from them. (They were afraid, however, 
because they thought he was some sort of a witch doctor, and they were puzzled why 
he was kneeling down and cleaning the grave of British people). So it was a very lucky 
finding and we all stood silent for a moment in front of the old gravestones with the 
weathered but still visible words: “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away”, a 
verse also engraved on Jim’s grave in Nyeri (Kenya). The location of the grave is on 
the upper left side of the cemetery (when looking from the church) with Christopher 
William and Mary Jane lying side by side. Although the graves were not in good con- 
dition, we took photos and talked about the need for restoration. There is the danger 
of the cemetery being cleared out and taken over by the human settlements on the 
border. For the future, it might be better to relocate the gravestones and to mount them 
in the wall of the church. Kotecha even thought of transferring the mortal remains 
of Jim from Nyeri to Nani Tal to make a memorial here. Anyway, something had to 
be done to preserve the memory of Jim and his parents here. Symbolically, we were 
at the Nainital cemetery on April 18th, only a day short of the 57th anniversary of 
Jim Corbett’s passing away from a massive heart attack in Kenya, without seeing his 
beloved India for the last nine years of his life. 

Having left the graveyard, we went up Ayarpatta Hill to the summer house of the 
Corbett family. Gurney House was built in 1880 and is private property now. After 


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some changes in ownership, it now belongs to Mrs. Nilanjana Dalmia. She bought it 
in 2010 and has done a lot of work on it, because it is in much better condition than 
some years ago. There is a new wall around the property, a well-kept garden and 
servants to look after it. Kotecha had sent a message via Facebook to Lady Dalmia, 
who kindly invited us to come around when staying in Nainital. That very kind lady 
said that Gurney House would be opened to Corbett fans whenever they wished to 
visit it. So we rang the bell at the entrance gate and a female attendant opened the 
door and led us in. Mrs. Dalmia, who lived here only in the hot summer seasons, was 
still in Delhi as it was still cold in Nainital, but had made arrangement for her staff 
to be present to welcome us. After passing through the garden we went along the old 
wooden verandah with its authentic chairs and tables and then entered the house 
itself. In the corridor on a cupboard were books of Jim Corbett and a photo of the 
Champawat man-eater. On the wall was a photo of Corbett’s grave in Nyeri. Though 
the furniture in the living room almost certainly dated back to Corbett’s time, it was 
in very good condition, clean and obviously still in use and part of everyday life. We 
also could see Corbett’s old writing table and imagined Jim still sitting there writing 
his classic “Man-eaters of Kumaon”. Many old trophies were on the walls, no tigers but 
different types of deer, mostly African antelopes, bucks and deer, trophies hunted by 
Corbett during his repeated visits to Tanganyika from 1918 to 1936. On the board of a 
wooden mantled fireplace was a leopard scull with the left canine broken. The broken 
canine let us think immediately of the Rudraprayag leopard, but since it was not a 
very big skull, it most likely could not have been the skull of such a big and old male. 
This was confirmed later by Jerry Jaleel, head of the Jim Corbett Foundation, who told 
Kotecha that this leopard skull is indeed from one of Jim Corbett’s kills, but according 
to the previous owners (the Verma) the canine had fallen out not so long ago. There 
were some old books from a still older vintage. Kotecha was hoping to find one of 
the rare copies of Corbett’s first writings - Jungle Stories. This was a sort of precursor 
to Man-eaters of Kumaon, privately printed in 1935 and given only to some friends. 
I soaked up the atmosphere of this old house, trying to imagine Corbett living here, 
writing the first sketches of his books and his mother or his sister Maggie playing on 
the old piano amidst the dark furniture. It was not easy to let go. When we went, we 
did so with gratitude to Mrs. Dalmia and her servants and with the comfortable feeling 
that this treasure was in good and sensible hands. Though not a Corbett museum but 
a living property, the best is being done to preserve the very special character of this 
place of heritage for the future. 

What more can be said? We bought a few good books, drank a world-class Bud- 
weiser (5%!) and left Nainital in the early afternoon. In Kathgodam we met Anup and 
after a snack and a cold drink changed drivers and cars and went to Delhi. This is 
a big road now already resembling a motorway in parts. Thanks to our experienced 
driver we had a safe ride, although it must have been a demanding job for him on 


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this crowded street amongst lorries, buses, tractors, motorbikes and bicycles. When 
darkness fell it got even worse and this road was probably the most dangerous “jungle” 
we met on our journey. But due to our driver we reached Delhi safely and it was after 9 
pm, when we arrived at Saket bed and breakfast at the southern end of Delhi and not 
far away from Delhi International Airport. For their early flight Kotecha, Reyna and 
Rushika had to start around 2 am and so the girls went to sleep at once only eating 
pieces of a sandwich the manager provided. Kotecha and I sat down at the lounge for 
a last beer, saying goodbye to each other and looking back on the many wonderful 
experiences we had shared in the last weeks. We were both sorry to have to leave but 
it was no use worrying and so we wished each other a safe journey and finally went 
to sleep. When I woke up the next day, Kotecha and the girls were already up in the 
air. I had a whole day left to consider the events and did it by relaxing strolls through 
the Lodi garden and the Mehrauli Archaeological Park neat the Qutb Minar. I had 
dinner in a nice restaurant in the Hauz Khas Deer Park where I had already been on 
the first day. So finally the circle had closed and after picking up my luggage at Saket 
bed and breakfast, I took a taxi to the airport. Next morning I was in Munich again, 
my hometown in Germany. I hope to come back again to Corbett country with my 
friends Kotecha, Reyna, Rushika, Joseph, Priyvrat, and this time, we all hope, together 
with Fernando. 


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Corbett Trip Diary Kumaon, 2014 

BY MANFRED WALTL 


Friday, 11th April, Delhi: Back again! 

This time it was not the railway station as we had planned two years ago. We want- 
ed to meet at the Delhi National Archives to do some research there before starting 
our journey to Corbett country. We, that again were Joseph Jordania from Australia, 
Priyvrat Gadhvi from India, Kristoff Kotecha from Mauritius, his lovely daughters 
Reyna and Rushika and me, Manfred Waltl from Germany. Kotecha, the girls and I 
had met four days earlier at Mumbai airport at the gate of our connecting flight to 
Nagpur. We had arranged a tiger safari at Tadoba NP prior to our Corbett trip and we 
did not regret it. Tadoba, the biggest National Park in Maharashtra, turned out to be a 
very scenic spot, with good chances of seeing tigers in the wild. In four game drives, 
we had two tiger sightings, one big male from a rather big distance and a beautiful 
young tigress at very close range, literally just aside of the road. After three nights 
in Tadoba we took the night train from Chandrapur to Delhi and now, at 9 o’clock in 
the morning of the 11 th of April, we had stored away our luggage at the station and 
were ready for adventure. After shopping and changing money at Connaught place, 
we got a call from Priyvrat that he and Joseph had already arrived at the National 
archives at Janpath road. 

At first sight, it sounded like a good idea to meet at the archives, but when we got 
more information, complicating details emerged. Foreigners, we were told, needed a 
recommendation from their embassy to be allowed to enter the National archives of 
India. Kotecha actually tried this but did not even get an answer from his embassy. 
Joseph brought all the necessary papers from his University, then he went through the 
official channels, including going to the Australian High Commission in Delhi, and 
obtained the required papers, losing only about half of the day and only a few dozens 
of dollars. To me, it sounded much too complicated and I did nothing at all, thinking 
about substituting the research work in the archives with some touristic sightseeing in 
Delhi. Kotecha was rather sympathetic to this idea and we only went to the Archives 
for the purpose, to meet our friends there. But “this is India”, as Priyvrat later said. 
The officer at the reception simply asked us, if our purpose was research. We tried 
to look as serious as possible and nodded “Yes, research!” Now we only had to fill 
our name with the purpose of “research” in some sort of a guest book and. . . we were 
in. Yes indeed, this is India! 

We went into the library where Joseph and Priyvrat were already busy at the PC 
and it was a big “Hallo”. At the small seating area in the corner we couldn’t help 
talking so much to each other, that the caretaker of the library urged us twice, to keep 
silent. The research itself turned out to be no big success, as the computers were dead 
slow. I don’t exaggerate when I claim, that it took at least 10 minutes to open just 


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one page. Our scientific success therefore was negligible, but at least we had tried 
and it was an interesting experience. 

After dinner with Tandoori Chicken and some beers - I was shocked when Pri- 
yvrat wanted to order only small ones - we boarded the night train to Kathgodam 
leaving Old Delhi station at 10.30pm. As we had only three confirmed berths, we 
had to share them two by two, But as the berths in the first class compartment were 
quite spacious, we could manage it. Before going to sleep, we chatted with two very 
nice and friendly young women that had also reservations in our compartment. We 
told them with all our enthusiasm about Jim Corbett and the purpose of our trip. They 
were polite and tried to look interested, but I am afraid, they thought of us as some 
rather weird people. No problem with the train division this time as we at least all 
travelled in the same carriage. The only minor nuisance was that all six of us had to 
sleep on three beds. At 5am in the early morning we arrived save and most notably 
all together at Kathgodam railway station, where the car of Wildrift Adventures with 
our guide Kamal was already waiting for us. It took me only one step out of the 
train to feel the contrast to a big and crowded town like Delhi. The air here was cool 
and clean and while breathing it, we were pumping new energy and the spirit of the 
oncoming adventure in our bodies. 

On this new trip, our first aim was, to revisit some of the places, we had seen in 
2012. Questions had aroused the last two years and we felt, we could not give proper 
answers without doing some additional research. But of course we also wanted to see 
something new. From Kathgodam railway station we first wanted to drive to Ranikhet 
for a meeting with Akhsay Shah, who had worked with DC Kala on “Jim Corbett of 
Kumaon”. Then after one night in Mukteshwar our plan was to camp in Kala Agar and 
Dalkhania and from there reach Champawat and Tala Des. From here we planned to 
walk down to Sem and Chuka, just as Jim Corbett did but in the opposite direction. 
After revisiting Thak we intended to be back in civilization in Nainital and from there 
reach Delhi for our return flights. Priyvrat, Kotecha and the girls could only share 
the trip up to Champawat April 19th. The last days it would only be Joseph and me. 

Saturday 12 th April, Ranikhet, a friendly meeting and an evening in Muk- 
teshwar 

It was a very pleasant drive deep into the foothills of the Himalayans to reach the 
town of Ranikhet. Here we had arranged a meeting with Akhsay Shah there. He lives 
in a spacious bungalow with a nice garden in a remote and quiet spot in the outskirts 
of the town, bordering the forest. Akhsay Shah had worked with DC Kala on his “Jim 
Corbett of Kumaon” and we hoped, we could get some new information or even new 
material for our research. Mr. Shah is a very kind and noble person with an impressive 
V-shaped black and grey beard. We sat down in his living room, were served with tea 
and for about two hours could discuss with him a multitude of topics. I do not recall 


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most of them - but I remember that we were able to see the Maggie’s notes and saw 
some of the rare editions of Corbett books. I also clearly remember the question that 
I asked Mr. Shah almost at the end of our discussion. It was about the discrepancy 
of Corbett’s description of the final meeting with the Chowgarh tigress that is much 
more dramatic in the book than in a letter to Maggie written only a couple of hours 
later after the real event. Did he think that Corbett did over-dramatize the real event 
in the book to make a better reading or did he rather downplay the situation in a 
letter to his always worried sister? Akhsay Shah thought the latter of it, that Corbett 
downplayed it to settle the mind of his sister. 

The drive from Ranikhet to Mukteshwar on small and winding roads took con- 
siderably more time than expected and so it was already near sunset when we arrived 
at Camp Purple, Kamal’s property. Driving up Mukteshwar ridge we wondered about 
the location of Badri Shah’s Orchard, where in the vicinity of it the Mukteshwar 
tigress was shot by Corbett. As we came from the direction of Almora, we entered 
the Mukteshwar from the northern side. On the way up, we passed the old veterinary 
institute. I remembered this road from my first visit in 2007 with Sid Anand from 
Camp Corbett. The caretaker of the Mukteshwar dak bungalow had led us then to a 
place nearby. 

Around one kilometer north (downhill) of the buildings of the veterinary institute 
we then had left our car and descendedon a small footpathinto a valley, with a small 
stream in it. This place - approximately 150 meters below the level of the road - was 
shown to me as the one, where Corbett shot the tigress. It was the north-eastern side 
of the Mukteshwar ridge. At this time I had no doubts about it, especially as where 
we left the carthere still was an orchard which I attributed without much questioning 
to Badri Shah. But was this really true? Questioning other people and especially an 
old man in Camp Purple suggested the assumption, that the real place where Badri 
Shah’s orchard once stood was nearly 10 kilometers south to here and on the south 
or south-western face of the ridge. The old man who had told us so went with us for 
an exciting evening walk to show us the location. 

I can only give rough directions but it might help, if someone will try to follow 
our footsteps. From Camp Purple we went on the main road in the northern direction 
andpassed the Red Roof Guest house to our right. Not much more than 100 meters 
later and in front of a property with a red wall topped by a fence of white painted 
wrought iron and a big white entrance door, we turned left and followed a well-con- 
structedfootpath in thedownhill direction. Roughly 300 meters later we went left 
again on a much smaller one that soon turned out to be no more than a trodden path 
between terraced fields. The evening walk meanwhile was almost a night walk and 
we needed the help of our torches for walking safely. At the deepest point of our walk 
the terrain now was nearly on level and a small stream wasrunning in a distance of 


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some 30 metersto the right and almost parallel to us. In front and on top of a small 
hilltop of about 50 meters height was a big two storied and quite new building. 

Badri Shah’s orchard didn’t exist anymore, we were told, but here was the place 
where it once stood. It was dark now and there was no time for a thorough inves- 
tigation. I have no coordinates of this place but I would estimate it to be about one 
kilometer - in a linear distance- south-west of the main Mukteshwar road, a few hun- 
dred meters more southern than Camp Purple and around 200-300 meters below. On 
the way up, we passed an old building that was said to be Badri Shah’s house. When 
we reached the main road 500 meters south of Camp Purple, we nearly had done a 
full circle with the place where the tigress was shot halfway. At home I realized that 
you can see the building that now is on Badri Shah’s place on Google Earth. If you 
like too, then first search for Camp Purple and from there scroll to the west (left). A 
tiny bit more than 1000 meters west and very slightly south (down) to it, you will 
see a big roof in a pale purplish redcolor on top of a small hill. This is the rooftop 
of the new building. And though without direct proof, I have the very good feeling 
that this really is the right place. 

This feeling was strengthened when having a closer look at Corbett’s account 
again. Rethinking our experience I for the first time took notice of a passage in his 
writing were shortly after his arrival and standing near the Mukteshwar post office he 
describes the location with this words: "Where the road (the one that Cor- 
bett went up) comes out on a saddle of the hill there is a small 
area of flat ground flanked on the far side by the Muktesar Post 
Office, and a small bazaar. ... The dak bungalow ... was half a mile 
away on the northern face of the hill. ... From the flat ground in 
front of the post office and the bazaar the southern face of the 
Muktesar hill falls steeply away, and is cut up by ridges and ra- 
vines..." What Corbett calls “southern face” and “northern face” is compared with 
a map not completely south or north orientated. The southern face as Corbett calls it 
to distinguish it from the northern face extends more in the western or south western 
direction while latter is more north-east orientated. Still looking down the south face 
(that means Corbett was looking exactly in a west to south west direction) he contin- 
ues with two very important sentences about the location of Badri Shah’s orchard: "in 
a fold of the hill to our left front and about two miles away and 
a thousand feet below us, was a patch of cultivation. This I was 
informed was Badri Shah's apple orchard. " As you will see on my sketch 
map, the post office, where Corbett stood is nearly one mile uphill from Camp Purple, 
where we stayed and started our walk. 

The Dak bungalow or the rest house is still half a mile further uphill. The view 
fromthe bungalow is down to the northern face where there is the veterinary institute 
and the place I was shown in 2007. But reading Corbett’s account properly, this could 
not be true as Corbett looked down in the opposite direction to describe the location 


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of Badri Shah’s orchard. The real place where the tigress was shot therefore had to be 
on the southern face of the Mukteshwar ridge. Just on this side we had been yesterday. 
Also further details support the assumption that we really were at or at least very near 
to the real place. To see the cultivated land of Badri Shah when looking down the 
south face from the post office, Corbett had to look to the left. This is exactly what 
you have to do if you want to look in the direction of the two stored house that was 
said to be at the place where Badri Shah’s guest house should have been. The distance 
that I estimated “a tiny bit more than 1 000 meters” from Camp Purple matches the 
two miles from the post office in Corbett’s description very well. Even the height 
difference I roughly estimated 200-300 meters is quite near to Corbett’s thousand 
feet. Also his description of the guest house being “on a little knoll overlooking the 
orchard” matches our observation. 

Over thinking this, I am very sure now we stood at the right place and not too far 
from where the tigress had been shot. I don’t think that on our way we had passed the 
exact spot, but this of course is a matter of guess. Yes, there was a small stream as 
in Corbett’s account, but Corbett tells of "a deep and densely wooded ravine 
which extended down the face of a very steep hill, for a mile or 
more..." This sounds like still being in quite a distance to the place we had been. But 
as it had been nearly dark when we were there, I cannot tell for sure. 

Monday 14 th April, “All the crazy people ...” 

“All the crazy people are now together, so no one will stop them.” For me this 
was the “word of the day,” spoken by Vratika in a telephone call with her husband 
Priyvrat, who was lingering with some friends in a remote part of India. None of us 
was offended by her assessment. She was totally right and we were proud of it. Yester- 
day we had left Camp Purple and after a three to four hour’s drive on winding roads 
downhill, uphill, downhill and uphill again we had finally reached Kala Agar, a village 
of scattered houses on the north face of the ridge, the village had given its name to. 
Kala Agar is situated about 1600 meters above sea level and roughly 250 meters below 
the top of the ridge. We had left the cars here and after a 20 minutes climb we had 
reached Kala Agar Forest Rest blouse, no more in use now but surrounded by terraced 
fields, where in one of them just below the surrounding walls of the rest house we 
had made our camp. 

This time we wanted to spend two nights here, so we would have the advantage 
of having one full and another half day, not only a few hours as two years ago. Back 
then, Kotecha and I were not really convinced by our findings and now we wished to 
have more time for a closer look - this time also “with a little help of our friends”. My 
confident optimism of 2012 was no more that prominent. Of course it would be easy, 
to reach the point, “where the road crosses a ridge”, but we now knew that from here 
it was a vast number or ravines and countless rocks. But now, “all the crazy people 
were together” and we were in good spirits and convinced that behind some hidden 


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bend the “giant school slate” would wait for us. Yesterday we only had done a short 
informal walk up to the adjacent ridge and had pondered about the sites we wanted 
to explore the next day. Then it was already time for dinner. The cook had prepared 
tomato soup with coriander, chicken curry with rice, dal and fried vegetables and as 
desert: Sweet rice pudding with nuts and spices and of course Indian Chai. After we 
were stuffed with a delicious meal, we sat around a cozy log fire and looked forward 
to the next day. 

Now this next day had come and after an invigorating breakfast “all the crazy 
people” on a warm and sunny morning began with their search. We swiftly proceed- 
ed on the forest road to the adjacent ridge. There we turned right and followed the 
footpath in the direction of Chamoli for some 100-200 meters. At a place where the 
descent did not look too steep, we turned left and went down. We now were on the 
far side of the adjacent ridge. Soon we came across a footpath - we had not noticed 
in 2012 - which seemed to lead in the direction of an “open patch of ground,” we had 
seen from above and thought it was the same, Kotecha and I had sighted on our way 
back in 2012. We then thought this was the place where the Chamoli boy had been 
killed. We now decided to split into two groups. Priyvrat wanted to go deeper down 
into the valley and Kotecha, Joseph and I stayed on the path that went down in a rath- 
er slight gradient in the direction of the “open patch of ground”. If my internal map 
was right, both parties of us - ours for sure, but I think also Priyvrat’s - were further 
around the mountainside as we were in 2012. When our party reached the open patch 
of ground, we first felt the possibility that it could be the right one and made photos 
of an impressive boulder on the edge of it. Joseph, as I remember, took even some 
measurements. But a closer look revealed, that this possibility was only a very slight 
one, as the ground was much wider than Corbett had described it and the boulder, as 
impressively as he did look, matched his description only remotely. The hillside behind 
the rock did not fall as steep into the valley as it should and a person standing on top 
of the rock could easily be reached by a tiger with one big jump. 

Now we also went deeper into the valley. On the way we passed more than one 
big rock (“do you think it looks like a school slate?”) and began to follow a big and 
overgrown ravine in the downhill direction. The ravine was filled with a plenty of 
rocks, especially when we came closer to the bottom of the valley. It can be assumed, 
that they all were washed down by decades of monsoon rains. Maybe among them 
was “our school slate” but this was impossible to decide. Standing on the lower end 
of the ravine, we remembered, that Corbett mentioned a distance of “two to three 
hundred yards” between the hillside where the ravine and the tigress were and the 
opposite slope, he wished to climb to get an overview and maybe take a distant shot. 
Where we stood now, the distance was far too big to match his description, so we 
turned around and went more or less parallel to the ravine uphill again. Half way up 
we met Priyvrat. He too had not found anything remarkable and we decided to have 


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lunch, before continuing with our research. As for me, my mind was full of rocks and 
ravines and it was very difficult, not to get confused about this. 

While having lunch, Kamal and Girdar Singh, a guy from Kala Agar who accompa- 
nied us, had a phone call to an 80 years old villager of Kala Agar, now living in Delhi, 
who gave them instructions regarding the right place. So there was a new chance and 
after finishing lunch we continued our ascent in the direction of the forest road, as the 
place should be in the vicinity of it. We passed one or two dry nullahs, went up along 
the right side of another ravine which we crossed and walked up the hillside to the 
left. I would estimate the forest road now being 50 meters above and in a straight line 
distance 300 meters in front us (Joseph and Kotecha made measurements the next day, 
so they might be able to tell the facts more accurate. See the special chapter on this 
topic). Here some big rocks came in view. To be honest, at first glance, I would not have 
paid more attention to them as to many other rocks we had passed on our way, but 
then I saw my friends and our guides stopping and discussing. Obviously they talked 
about this place as the one, the 80 years old guy from Delhi had mentioned to them. 

What should we think about this place? First I have to tell you, if your benchmark 
is what you imagine while reading Corbett’s thrilling account, I suppose, you will be 
slightly disappointed, and so I was too. The rock, they were talking about, was indeed 
a big one with a high and comparatively even side, not as flat as a school slate, but 
with some indulgence it might be interpreted this way. Instead of a glide on its right 
side there was a slope of earth, grass and gravel. Assumed we were on the right place 
then time must have filled the glide up with soil. The left side seemed more accurate 
to me. There was a patch of grass nearly one meter wide leading down between the 
“school slate” and some smaller rocks and bushes on the other side. It can well be 
imagined, that the tigress went down here and lied in wait for Corbetts party. The 
distance to the opposite hill was also not speaking against. I still felt it a bit too long, 
but not really impossible. The best argument of course was the testimony of the 80 
years old villager. Without this, I think no one of us would have really been convinced. 
However, there was no objective fact that would have ruled this place out. But you 
have to admit, that other places and rocks could have been interpreted in a similar 
way. Again with mixed feelings we left and after a 10 minutes climb reached the forest 
road near Saryapani junction. 

On the way back and about halfway to the adjacent ridge which was some 400 
meters off, I went downhill again. There was a small footpath, Kotecha in his account 
brings in connection with the path Corbett went down. He may be right, but at this 
moment, I did not think about this and only had in mind to look either for a school 
slate or an open glade with a big rock on the side. It was more out of desperation than 
following a deliberate plan. It was the only patch of land on the far side of the adjacent 
ridge we had not examined yet and there was always a slight hope, we suddenly would 
stand in front of the unexpected. 


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I think I had persuaded Kotecha to follow me by promising, we would just go a few 
meters to have a look, as we were already exhausted by the continuous up and down 
of this day. But after passing one rock, there was another one somewhat deeper in the 
valley and after that: “Oh look there, this ravine looks promising too” and finally we 
were nearly half way down into the valley and quite near to the big open ground that 
had been our first aim in the morning. So again there was a considerable climb uphill 
- at least 150 meters in height - until we reached the forest road at the place where it 
crossed the adjacent ridge. It was time to go back to the camp and have dinner. The 
cook had made pasta with an excellent white caper sauce. My friends later attended a 
village fair in an upper part of Kala Agar, only 15 minutes away. I didn’t feel the urge 
for any more activity and stayed back with Rushika. I made notes in my diary, had 
some sips of “Wild Water” (whiskey mixed with water) and fell asleep with the distant 
sounds of the village fair. 

Tuesday, 15 th April, an interesting finding and a scenic walk to Dalkania 

We still had a half day more in the surroundings of Kala Agar. Kotecha and Joseph 
wanted to have a closer look at Girdar s rock, as we called the place we had found yes- 
terday with the help of Girdar Singh and the 80 years old villager. They wanted to do 
measurements to get a more precise assessment. Priyvrat and I had another idea. The 
only terrain, we had not jet investigated, was the valley in front of the adjacent ridge. 
You will remember, that we had more or less ruled out the possibility that the action 
could have happened there. Corbett had written that he went down into the valley 
“after the road crosses a ridge” and we were quite sure, that he spoke of the adjacent 
ridge. But could there be any possibility that what he meant was not the adjacent ridge 
but the hillside, the forest road crossed at the place where the compass turned? Given 
that, the valley in front of the adjacent ridge would be the right one. This was my 
first idea, when I looked down into the valley in 2007. Now for good reasons we had 
another view of the terrain, but even if there was only a bare possibility, we decided to 
investigate it. Maybe otherwise we would always blame ourselves of missing an even 
a slight chance. And what was the alternative for the time left? We could of course 
have accompanied our friends in doing measurements of a rock we had already seen 
and haven’t beenoverly impressed with, or trying to find something new in the only 
place we had not visited yet. So Priyvrat and I choose the unknown and said: “Let’s 
go!” A villager, who told us, that other expeditions too went down here, came with 
us. And it really turned out to be much more promising, than expected. Did we find 
the “school slate”? Sorry no, but... 

Soon after the bend, where the road “goes from the north to the west face of the 
Kala Agar range” and the compass turns, we went down into the valley in front of 
the adjacent ridge. From above we had seen a ravine which we followed downhill. 
The ravine was compared to Corbett’s description a bit less than “ten yards wide” but 


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“four or five feet deep". I followed the ravine with some tension, but no suitable rock 
or even something resembling a “school slate” was there to be found. I went on the 
bottom of the ravine while Priyvrat and the villager stayed above to keep an eye on 
the surrounding. When we were already in the vicinity of Chamoli we turned around 
and went back. Soon we realized that another ravine branched off left in the uphill 
direction. This we followed. At a certain point in the ravine was a comparatively big 
rock and we took some photos in default of a better alternative, although it clearly 
was too small and did not look like a “school slate” at all. 

On the other hand we realized that the distance to the opposite slope was very 
well fitting to the 200-300 yards, mentioned by Corbett. Of course you have to swallow 
the idea, that this opposite slope could be the adjacent ridge ever. But the really sur- 
prise was still coming. A few dozen meters above the end of this ravine, we suddenly 
stood on the perfect “open patch of ground”\ We had no tapeline to measure it exactly 
but Corbett did not have it either and his estimation of “thirty yards square” was the 
same as ours. There also was “a rock about four feet high, on the lower edge of the 
open ground. As we said, we had no measure tape, but with Priyvrat in front, it was 
somewhat higher than its hips. The whole rock was much bigger, but projected the 
open ground by this size. On the downhill side where with Corbett’s words “the hill 
fell steeply away to the valley below", the rock extended down the hill, just as Corbett 
had written. The only difference between his and our description is, that his estimation 
was eight to ten feet while we felt it somewhat bigger, around five meters what would 
be the equivalent of 14 feet. There was of course no scrub jungle and no undergrowth 
or pine saplings as in Corbetts account. There is none such today in all the vicinity. 

So let us resume, what we had found in front of the adjacent ridge: An exactly 
fitting open patch of ground with a very appropriate rock on it in the perfect distance 
to the opposite slope, two ravines in the vicinity and - as we should realize later - the 
place could be seen from above (not exactly from the forest road but you have to go 
only ten meters to the right of it), just as Corbett had written. What we had not found 
was “the school slate”, we have to admit nothing even faintly resembling a school slate. 
And of course, the location in front of the adjacent ridge can be doubted for good 
reasons. I am afraid I will have to leave you, the kind reader, with assumptions and 
possibilities and no really clear facts. I now really think, that it will be no more pos- 
sible, to find a spot exactly fitting to Corbetts description. In such a terrain, 80 years 
are probably too much to leave a place unchanged. But anyway, it was a thrilling and 
touching experience to be so close to the place of this famous hunt. 

When we met Kotecha and Dr Jordania, they told us that measurements were 
coinciding to the ones that Corbett gave in the story. But as I have not been there, I 
suggest you to read the special chapter on this topic, with the accompanying pictures. 
We had to leave Kala Agar now, but were not jet finished with Chowgarh territory. In 


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the early afternoon we started our walk on the forest road to Dalkania, a walk, Corbett 
often did during the hunt. 

Thirteen kilometers mostly downwards, so Kamal said. This sounded like a relaxed 
afternoon walk, what was not completely true. He should have added, that “mostly 
downhill” in this case meant fife kilometers uphill and after crossing a ridge eight ki- 
lometers downhill. Of course mathematically he was right: Mostly downhill! After the 
strenuous up and down in the last days I was not in my best condition and in the first 
uphill part of the walk I went behind for the most time and had to pause quite often. 
After we had crossed the ridge on the highest point the walking was more relaxed, I 
now was able to value this real fine trek. 

There were no villages on the way. We walked through beautiful forest sometimes 
with rhododendron trees that had blossomed not long ago. In some parts, the path was 
covered with red petals and I thought of the spectacular impression it might have given 
about two weeks earlier. There were also good views down into the valley. Before the 
forest road descended steeply downhill at the end of the Kala Agar ridge, the footpath 
to Dalkania, just as Corbett has written, branches off to the right. For the first part, 
the path went up again. When we left the forest, the village of Dalkania came in view, 
very scenically situated and spread out on the eastern slope of the Kala Agar ridge. 

The footpath to Dalkania went in a big band around a deep valley until it reached 
its destination after roughly 5 kilometers. Soon we realized that the path was used 
very infrequently as it was overgrown with weed that reached up to our waist. It was 
a rough walking and no one could tell if got worse further on. So Kamal very wisely 
suggested to return to the forest road and follow it down into the valley where it met 
the sealed road at the village Patlot, eight kilometers in front of Dalkania. Here we 
could enter our cars and drive the rest of the distance. We did so and it was late af- 
ternoon, when we passed through Dalkania, where shortly after the lower end of the 
village on the way to Kundal our men had already prepared our tents on a harvested 
terraced field just aside of the road. Kamal and our men were in good spirits, so after 
dinner we could enjoy their singing and dancing and storytelling (Joseph was very 
happy as they sung some traditional songs in harmony), while we were sitting alto- 
gether around a big bonfire. 

Wednesday, 16 th April, Dalkania, the gaunt and some other stories 

Most of the day past in the search and talking to the relatives of two of Corbett 
story heroes, both survivors of the Chowgarh man-eater: the brave girl who survived 
thanks to medical help from Corbett, and the gaunt strongman who wrestled the 
tigress and survived with a horribly disfigured face. 

We visited a small village, where we were served an excellent lassi and a colorful 
character, the headwomen of the village, told us Corbett-related stories. The reader 
can read about her and her stories in a chapter related to Kulomani, the giant villager 


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from Dalkania who survived the tigress attack with horrible scars. At the local tee 
shop in Patlot we also met Trilochand, Kulomani’s grandson. Later we were invited 
into Trilochand’s house where we were shown a framed page of a newspaper about his 
grandfather. There was a Joel Lyall article “Man VS. Man-Eater: Taming the tigress.” 
We also saw the photo of Kulomani’s son, who as an eight year old boy, was present 
during the tigress attack on Kulomani. On the same day we also had a meeting related 
to the Naruli Dev, the lucky girl that survived the Chowgarh tigress attack thanks to 
Corbett. I suggest readers for more details to read a special chapter about Naruli Dev. 

Questions and findings in Champawat 

In 2012 we were able to locate the amphitheatre and the place, where the tigress 
had been shot. But back home, we felt a growing uncertainty about the location of the 
bungalow where Corbett had stayed and also about his movements while following 
the tigress. Peter Byrne had written in his book, that the last victim was from Gaudi 
and that the hunt had started from there, what means - as seen from Champawat - on 
the far (=northern) side of the gorge. But to align this possibility with the following 
movements of Corbett and the tigress was not really convincing. Besides, we had found 
no traces of a bungalow on the far side of the gorge. If you still need more arguments, 
read Kotecha’s account on this matter. 

We came closer to a solution when we realized that Peter Byrne not only did write 
that the last victim was from Gaudi, but also that Corbett had stayed at the Phungar 
bungalow. As we now knew for sure, that Gaudi was on the far side of the gorge and 
the Phungar bungalow on the near side of the gorge, one of these two assessments in- 
evitably had to be wrong: Either the bungalow where Corbett had stayed, or the village 
where the girl had been taken. In 2012 we only followed the assumption that Byrne 
was right with the killing place Gaudi and were consequently looking for a bungalow 
on this side of the gorge (as we know, the bungalow MUST be overlooking the village 
where the last victim was killed). But wasn’t it just as possible, that Peter had been right 
with the bungalow and wrong with the name of the village? Let us remember, Corbett 
only spoke of a village without giving it a name. It was Peter Byrne, who introduced 
the name of Gaudi (or Gouri, as he called it). 

Thinking about the controversy, I suddenly felt sure, that Peter Byrne was wrong 
with the name of the village and right with the bungalow, not conversely as we had 
thought in 2012. At least one big advantage of the Phungar bungalow is that no one 
could deny that it really exists. On the other hand, we had found no traces of a similar 
one on the other side, next to Gaudi. If this assumption was true and Corbett stayed 
in the Phungar bungalow then the girl must have been killed in the village of Phungar 
on the near (=southern) side of the gorge and it was there, where the hunt had started 
and where on the following day the beaters stood on the crest of the hill. (More details 
on this can be found in a special chapter about the Champawat tigress). This would 


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explain much better the movements of Corbett and the tigress. But of course this had 
to be confirmed on location and so was our plan in 2014. 

Thursday, 17 th April, We had arrived in Champawat the evening before. After 
three days rather basic camping in Chowgarh, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity 
of an extensive shower in the local hotel where we were staying. Feeling like newborn 
in the morning we first went to the DFO (Department Forest Officer) at the edge of 
the city. Fie was not in duty at the moment, but one of his subordinates provided us 
with the information, that there was no Forest bungalow near Gaudi. There was only 
one Dak bungalow in Champawat itself, which we had already seen and where now the 
police station is located. Most probably this was the one, where Corbett stayed for the 
first night before moving on to another place. The officer told us of another Forest Rest 
house roughly 15 kilometers in a totally different direction that definitely did not fit 
in the framework of the hunt. So the possibility of a bungalow above Gaudi more and 
more turned out to be pure fiction. Apart from asking about the bungalows, at DFO we 
also inquired about the name of a Champawat Tehsildar, a brave man from Corbetts 
story who accompanied Corbett on his hunt for the tigress, and was awarded a knife 
from the government. Unfortunately, no information on brave Tehsildar was obtained. 

We now went in the direction of Gaudi where we found out, that our friendly 
shopkeeper Mr. Gopal Singh Bohra was no more in his shop. We heard that he had 
fallen from a roof and had hurt his back seriously. In 2012 he had told us, that there 
must have been a bungalow on the top of nearby mountain, which formed an upper 
part of Gaudi some 100 meters in height above his shop. Following these words we 
decided to visit this part of the village. It took about 20 minutes of walking mostly 
upwards. During our walk the sky grew darker and darker and we were happy to reach 
the house of the oldest man of the village, where we were going, just before the thun- 
derstorm started. With heavy rains and wind, it was an impressive spectacle to enjoy, 
being in the safety of the house and drinking hot chai. The old head of the family was 
resting on a sofa in the living room and he also told us, that there was no bungalow 
nearby nor has been in the past. After having talked for a while the storm settled. We 
thanked him for his hospitality and left for our cars on the road below. On the way 
down after the storm and the rain the sun came out again and threw a beautiful clear 
and warm light on the lush green fields surrounding the small village. In Champawat 
we appreciated the strength of a storm, when we saw a four wheel drive crushed under 
a big tree trunk, evidently uprooted by the storm. 

Now finally being convinced, that there was no bungalow close to Gaudi, we went 
back to Champawat, crossed the bridge once more and from the main bazar went left 
into the Tala Des Road in order to have an extensive look at the Phungar bungalow. 
As already told, it was an old building that could well date back to Corbett’s times. 
We went around, took photos and tried to look beyond the white concrete wall that 


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surrounded the building since some years, obviously being private property now. Out- 
side of the enclosure there were some houses in a distance of 500 meters downhill. 
We imagined them to be part of the village, from where the runner came to Corbett 
and informed him about the tiger having taken its last victim. 

On the way back to Champawat, we stopped at a bend and started a talk about 
the man-eater that roamed around more than 100 years ago with some people hang- 
ing around there. Kamal told us an exciting information that the last victim of the 
Champawat tigress was believed to be from Phungar village. We were understandably 
eager to see any relatives of the killed young woman, the staggering 436 th victim of 
the tigress. 

We were invited onto the veranda of a house where six old men were sitting next 
to a fireplace, talking, drinking tea and smoking tobacco or some kind of cannabis. 
One of them was Dev Singh Bohra, 78 years old son of Jhummun Singh, the brother 
of the last victim of the Champawat tigress. Jhummun Singh had been the youngest 
of eight siblings, seven sisters and he was the only son. The girl that had been killed 
was married and lived with her husband in Caeikuni village, four kilometers away. She 
had come to Champawat to visit her parents. The place where she had been killed was 
called Titlikanli by the villagers. It was a bit more than 500 meters from the Phungar 
bungalow in an eastern direction and around 200 meters left of the road and somewhat 
downhill. Before saying Goodbye to Dev Singh, we arranged a meeting for the next 
morning. He promised he would show us the exact spots. 

Friday, 18th April, (Good Friday), I was surprised to find the Good Friday an 
official holiday in Hindu India and I attributed it to the respect Indian culture has for 
the religious persuasion of other people and even minorities. The weather of today did 
fit to the grave sentiment of the Good Friday: Cold, rainy and dull. Notwithstanding, 
we left our cars at the Phungar bungalow and went down a wide footpath to the left in 
the direction of the gorge. Kotecha, who was not feeling well on the previous day, was 
with us. Not Dev Singh but another less informed person was with us this morning, 
as Dev Singh apparently thought the walk would be too long and strenuous for him. 

We followed the footpath for about one kilometer when we reached the place 
where the hill steeply descended into the gorge with the Champa flowing roughly 300 
meters below. The view we had from here was very similar to the one Peter Byrne had 
as it is shown in his book with his photo of the opposite hill. Now we turned right and 
went in eastern direction above the gorge. From here the hillside descended some- 
what less steep down into the gorge. I imagine this to be more or less the direction 
the tigress must have gone carrying her victim. I thought about the ravine where she 
went down and even imagined to come across the “pinnacle of rock” where Corbett 
advised the following man to climb and wait for him to return. Don’t be disturbed 
after reading the 2012 account, as in 2012 we were looking at the scene from the other 


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side of the amphitheater. Remember, we now had a different concept concerning the 
starting point of the hunt: It had to be Phungar on this side of the gorge, not Gaudi 
on the opposite side. So the “pinnacle of rock” also had to be on the Phungar side. 

On some less steep places, we tried to descend slightly down into the gorge. But 
still fairly steep and slippery because of a slight but returning drizzle, most of us 
thought it to be too dangerous to proceed, especially in the company of children. But 
as I was still obsessed with the idea of the pinnacle of rock, I went ahead for one or 
two hundred meters in the downhill direction, where two gorges seemed to meet each 
other, the one to the right came from above and I imagined it to be the watercourse 
Corbett went down in persecution of the tigress. The other was below me and came 
from the left. It met the “watercourse” approximately in a right angle and I hoped - if 
my assumption was right - I might get a glimpse of a pinnacle shaped rock and I also 
thought of the small pool Corbett mentions at the junction of two ravines, where he 
found the severed leg of the victim and had his close shave with the tigress. 

The walking under wet and slippery conditions was not easy but I accomplished 
the task and when I stood at the place where the ravines met, I had not seen any- 
thing similar to a “pinnacle of rock” and there was no pool either but humid soil at 
the bottom of the ravines overgrown with tall weed. The walls of the ravines were 
between 2 and 3 meters high what was not so different to what Corbett relates. So it 
is just a matter of guess if it might be the place, where he found the leg of the victim. 
As there were no clear signs, there probably are many similar places in the vicinity 
and to be honest, I imagine the right place somehow deeper into the gorge and nearer 
the bottom of the hillside. But who knows. Finally I turned around, went up again, 
met my friends and we all went back to Phungar bungalow and had our lunch there. 

In the afternoon we met Dev Singh again and went with him to his elder sister who 
lived in the outskirts of Phungar village. She could tell us the name of the girl who 
was the last victim of the Champawat man-eater. It was Premka Devi. She had been 
married very young and was accompanying her mother, when the tigress killed her. 

Saturday, 19 th April (Corbett passing away day). After morning tea, breakfast 
and a hot shower we formulated our task for today: we wanted to go down into the 
gorge and climb onto the rock where the tigress had her last stand. Joseph wanted 
to do some measurements there to be sure we were at the right place. As in 2012 
we went down from the northern (Gaudi) side, where the road is closer to the gorge 
and closer to the bottom. We left our cars at the place, which we already were fa- 
miliar with and went down in the direction of the amphitheatre. Two years ago we 
had stopped our descent 30 meters above the bottom because we had the impression 
reaching the bottom from there safely was difficult. But this time, determined as we 
were, we went down all the way and were quite surprised that it did not turn out to 
be too difficult and could be done carefully but without serious problems by each 


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one of us. On the other hand, Corbett, as readers might remember, went down this 
last part of the descent running. In his words doing this was “very difficult” but to 
us running down this terrain was too scary even to think about. 

Big boulders of rock covering vast parts of the riverbed mainly on the other 
side were also dangerous. Pale green bushes grew between them partly covering the 
cracks and gaps. It reminded me of the “wilderness of rocks” through which Corbett 
followed the tigress carrying her victim. Most probably it was not the same wilder- 
ness that Corbett had crossed because otherwise he surely would have mentioned the 
proximity of the riverbed, but it gave us a slight impression of what Corbett might 
have experienced while following the tigress. An involuntary bigger impression of the 
perils of a false step in such a tricky terrain was experienced by Priyvrat firsthand. 
He stumbled in a crack and while bracing himself with his arm injured his wrist, but 
thankfully without serious consequences. Corbett himself had warned about such 
dangers and we learned to take his advices seriously. 

While Priyvrat and me were still struggling through the “wilderness of rocks” 
and adjacent bushes, Joseph, who went from the other side, was already on top of the 
flat projecting rock, we were already sure to be the place of the dramatic encounter 
between Corbett and the Champawat man-eater in 1907. When we reached the place 
some minutes later, Joseph had already lit two candles on top of the rock as it was the 
59 th anniversary of Corbett’s death. Silently having commemorated Corbett and the 
dramatic events that happened on this place more than hundred years ago, we began 
with our measurements. The results showed great accordance to Corbett’s description 
who gave a height of 12-14 feet of the overhanging rock. We measured exactly 12 
feet on the lower side and 15 1/2 feet on the upper side. On the top the rock was 20 
feet long and 12 feet wide. There was no rock in the surrounding area that would 
have fitted the description nowhere near as good. 

After being fully convinced that we really were on the right place, we had to 
decide what to do now. Should we go back the way we had come from or try to 
climb the other side of the gorge, the same side from where the beaters came down 
and the tigress was moved up after being shot by some sort of a “human rope”. For 
Priyvrat with his injured hand, the decision was clear. He had to go back to the cars. 
But Joseph and I were tempted to go steeply up. After a moment of hesitation while 
looking up the steep and pathless hillside we decided to give it a try. The cars would 
go around and wait for us, where we were supposed to reach the road on the other 
side. Then, with Kamal in front looking for the easiest way, we started the climb. 

The first part, which was about 100 meters in height, was extremely steep and 
Kamal was kicking steps in the soil on the most difficult parts of the ascent. But having 
negotiated this part, the toughest section was behind and from there the goat tracks 
could be followed. Soon it was no more crawling on all fours but an upright climb 
on zigzagging paths. While going uphill, the precipitous hill was on our left side and 


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BY MANFRED WALTL 


on every occasion we came around a ravine, I had a look again for the “pinnacle of 
rock”, but we did not see anything like it. A bit more than halfway uphill, we followed 
the ravine, which I had described yesterday as the possible “watercourse”, this time 
on the other (eastern) side of the ravine. I should mention, no pinnacle of rock was 
to be seen from this side either. 

Not far from the top we crossed a watercourse with a little creek of water in it. 
Near the crossing there indeed was a little pool, but much too high near the top of 
the gorge to be the one in Corbett’s description. In a slight bend we followed the 
watercourse to the right, but as he went downhill our path forked in the uphill direc- 
tion and in some minutes we had reached the crest where some houses and the road 
soon appeared. The small village was called Bardholi and it must have been from 
here, where the runner started his way up to Corbett. The Phungar bungalow was in 
view from this point, roughly 500-800 meters away. In the last part of our climb we 
must have passed very close the place called Titlikanli, where the last victim was 
killed by the tigress and Corbett started his pursuit. It might be somewhere near the 
watercourse we had crossed. 

We didn’t have to wait for long till the cars with our friends appeared and we went 
back together to the hotel. Back home there was a nice guy from the local press who 
wanted to do an interview with us. I forgot to mention that before our arrival we placed 
a note in a local newspaper that we were interested to meet Corbett-related people, 
and the local press took big interest for our trip. There were at least two publications 
at the local newspaper with the photos or our group. The reporter obviously imagined 
us to be very important people and was proud to get the opportunity to talk to us. I 
felt bad for him as he obviously was overwhelmed with the amount of information 
we gave to him. Poor guy! Priyvrat hat sent us the article later and, as I was afraid, 
he really did not understand most of the things we tried to explain to him. 

Sunday, 20 th April (Holy Easter): A visit in Tala Des 

Now just Joseph and me! Priyvrat had to leave in the middle of the last night to 
catch his plane at Delhi airport. Kotecha and the girls had already left a day earlier, 
on 1 8 th as school holidays in Mauritius were about to end and they had to be back. 
Joseph and I could spend a few days more and so we decided to have a look at Thak 
and Chuka again. But this time we would take a different route. In Corbett’s Tala 
Des account he went up to here in a very hot and steep climb from Chuka and Sem. 
Why not do the same, but in the less strenuous downhill direction with the additional 
benefit of a visit in Tala Des? We thought this was a good idea - and indeed it was 
- and so we left Champawat on theTala Des Road. 

The distance from Champawat to Tamli, where the road ends is nearly 50 kilo- 
metres. The Tala Des road is small and winding, but it is paved, so the driving was 
slow but not really difficult. The road winds itself up the northern flank of the Tala 


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Des ridge and as it had gained height, there were spectacular views of the white 
Himalayans including Nanda Devi peak. When the road on its highest point changed 
to the southern side of the ridge, we could see the whole Tala Des region. It was a 
beautiful mixed landscape with terraced fields, forest and spread out villages between 
hills that reached up to 2500 meters. The climate was very pleasant, much cooler 
than down in the valley with daytime temperatures of about 25 degrees and fresh but 
not cold evenings. We passed Haran from where a small unpaved road branches off 
to Tula Kot, the “TalaKote” from Corbett’s story. But today we went straight in the 
direction of Tamli (the “Tamali” in Corbett’s account) where we reached Leti after a 
few kilometres, a small hamlet of only two houses and a shop, situated in a bend of 
the road. Here, in an intersection of hills, nowadays - probably not in Corbett’s time 
as I will explain later -the footpath down to Sem and Chuka starts. On the side of 
this footpath around 200 meters off the road, Kamal had chosen a really nice place 
for our camp underneath some big old oak trees. 

Monday, 21"' April: Tamli and Tula Kot 

Next morning, the first we did was to continue on the Tala Des road up to its end 
in Tamli. The first village on the way was Simia where the road turned to the right 
and continued on the side of a steep drop to the left. Vultures were making circles in 
the sky and after five kilometers we reached Tamli, a village spread out on a distance 
of at least two kilometers. Shortly behind the village we left the car below a small 
white temple that seemed to mark the end of the ridge. From here it sloped with a 
growing gradient down into the Sarda valley. There were footpaths downhill but no 
roads. We turned around and went back, passed Leti again and continued on the main 
road to Haram, from where a small side road branches off to the right in the direction 
of Tula Kot. The road follows the side of a protracted ridge that leads from Haram 
to Tula Kot and further down into the valley. The distance from Haram to Tula Kot 
is around three kilometers with the latter being around 200 meters below. The road 
crosses the ridge around one hundred meters in front of Tula Kot on the side of one 
of the two hills, Corbett mentions in his account. 

Here we left the car and went in the direction of the other hill, shaped like a cy- 
lindrical knob of around 50 meters height, where on top above some terraced fields 
Tula Kot is located quite spectacularly. Between these hills is the “narrow saddle 
some fifty yards long” where Corbett went with the “lad of about seventeen ” - Dun- 
gar Singh as Corbett learned later - who showed him from here the place where his 
mother had been killed by the tigress. On this saddle the crowd of men stood to point 
out in the Wyran field below “something read lying in the sun ” and from the same 
saddle - though looking at the opposite direction - they were able to observe the last 
stages of the hunt with Corbett following the wounded tigress. This saddle in Corbett’s 
words "was the apex of two great valleys. The one on the left, or 
western side, swept down towards the Ladhya River; the one on the 
right fell steeply away and down ten or fifteen miles to the Kali 


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BY MANFRED WALTL 


river. Halting on the saddle the lad turned and faced the valley 
on the right..." 

At this point one might easily get confused about the directions and so, for the 
first moment, me as well. With Corbett coming from the village the right side of the 
saddle would not be the eastern but the western side and conversely the left side would 
be the eastern side. But when Corbett and the lad halted on the saddle, the lad, as 
Corbett wrote “turned” and it would be natural to assume, that Corbett before giving 
the directions had turned too and now looked back in the direction of the village. 
From this position his description makes completely sense: The western side is now 
the left one and the eastern side the right one. It was the right side Corbett puts his 
attention first as on this side the mother of the lad had been killed.Also today there is 
no way down the steep hillside from the saddle and, as Corbett did with the lad, you 
would have togo back to the village from where there is a goat track leading down. 

When we stood on the saddle and tried to get an impression of the whole situa- 
tion, we knew we had to choose which side we would try to investigate as we knew, 
we were not able to go down on both sides. When I had read the Tala Des story in 
“Temple tiger,” I did not really imagine the difference of height Corbett had to ne- 
gotiate when he simply tells that he went down with the lad to where the tiger had 
eaten his mother. Only when standing on the saddle and looking down you realize 
and appreciate the real meaning of his words especially with the sun burning down 
onto your head. Then you feel a great admiration for what Corbett carried out day 
after day. We stood on the saddle for a while and absorbed the scenery. There was a 
small flat patch of land on the ground that some villagers pointed out as the Wyran 
field, but I think this was just a matter of guess. We then proceeded to the village 
where from you have spectacular views of the surroundings. It is a real nice place 
with friendly people. We learned that Sundar Singh had passed away in 201 1. Sundar 
Singh was the grandson of Dungar Singh Boral, the lad that had accompanied Corbett. 
We could talk with Bachi Singh, a neighbor to Sundar Singh whose father was a little 
child when Corbett had stayed in the village. 

After a full circle around the village we stood again on the saddle and after a short 
discussion, we decided to go down on the left (western) side, where the man-eater 
had been shot. This side was less steep and below some terraced fields that were out 
of cultivation the ridge was covered with pine trees. 250 meters below the saddle was 
some flat ground that once had been cultivated and was now covered with scattered 
trees. The villagers of Tula Kot called this place “Field of Tak” and were convinced 
that the tigress had been shot here. According to Corbett’s description this seemed 
quite unlikely to me, but anyway, this was the slope where the hunt had ended and 
so I wanted to go down for a closer view. Joseph, who wasn’t feeling very well this 
day, stayed on the saddle and I went down with three men. 

The path we went down after we had left the cultivated land zigzagged through an 
area covered with bushes and pine trees. Shortly before we reached the comparatively 


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flat and open ground we crossed a dry stream and on its left side turned right in the 
downhill direction. Comparing it with Corbett’s description, we now stood on the 
place, where the six goats had been killed. In Chapter nine he writes, that the “other 
valley, the one to the left, was less steep and from the saddle a goat track ran down 
into it. It was this valley, where the goats had been killed... After winding down over 
steep and broken ground for five or six hundred yards, the track crossed a stream and 
then continued down the valley on the left bank. Close to where the track crossed the 
stream there was an open bit of comparatively flat ground. Running from left to right 
across this open ground was a low ridge of rock, in the far side of which was a little 
hollow, and lying in the hollow were three goats. ” I did not look for the mentioned 
hollow, but we stood on a structure that resembled a low ridge. While I went ahead, 
my companions sat down for a rest. Behind the ridge, the flat ground began to slope 
down gently with some old remnants of terraced fields. After around 150 meters, the 
gradient went steeper and I stopped and had a look around. The flat ground obviously 
had come to an end and to the left the terrain fell steeply down into a deep valley. On 
the right side in an incision of some 50 to 80 meters was the stream which seemed 
to flow down into the same valley. On the far side of the stream was the ridge upon 
whichthe village of Tula Kot was situated and the saddle where Joseph was waiting 
for me and where during Corbett’s hunt the villagers observed the scenery. 

Standing at the end of the flat ground, I tried to imagine the progress of the hunt. If 
I am right with the position of the low ridge, then this was also the place, from where 
Corbett had his shot at the tigress that went through her without hitting a hard part of 
her body. But which was her escape route after the shot? The tigress must have fled 
straight on or even more probably somewhat to the left as in this direction the terrain 
drops more steeply. After the drop the animal met a footpath on which Corbett fol- 
lowed her and"... to the right of the path was a boulder-strewn stream, 
the one that Dungar Singh and I had crossed farther up, and flanking 
the stream was a small grassy hill". The stream must have been the one, we 
had crossed before reaching the flat ground and the grassy hill on the other side of the 
stream could be nothing else than the slope upon which Tula Kot was situated. 

According to Corbett’s account the tigress did not cross the stream and went 
straight ahead. So the place where Corbett went over the edge of the path and nearly 
fell down a sheer drop and the place where he met the tigress must have been con- 
siderably beyond the place where I stood on the end of the flat ground and out of 
view from here. Anyway it was great being here but now it was time to turn around 
and go back. The way up was not as strenuous as I had expected, as the walk through 
beautiful pinewood with twittering birds and a pleasant cool breeze in the late after- 
noon was entertaining and enjoyable, at least for the first two thirds. The last third in 
the still blazing 4pm sun was somewhat more challenging and I was relieved, when I 
finally stood on the saddle again. After my troubles of climbing hundreds of metres of 
the steep hillsides I recalled the amazing fact that when following the tigress, Corbett 


306 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


was feeling horribly ill. He had a huge abscess in his ear inside his head, his one eye 
and one ear were not functioning, and he had excruciating pain in his ear. Only the 
night before killing the tigress, during the pursuit a tigress at night, his abscess burst. 
No wonder that Corbett did not want to tell the details of this story, as he was sure 
the readers would not believe him. This was the reason this extraordinary hunt was 
not included in his classic “Man-Eaters of Kumaon,” and instead was published in 
Corbett’s book “Temple Tiger,” published ten years later in 1954. 

Tuesday, 22 th April, From Tala Des to Sem: Jim Corbett writes about his as- 
cend to Tala Des on a hot April afternoon as “one of the steepest an most exhausting 
climbs ” he and his men had ever done. They followed a rough track “which went 
straight up the face of the mountain without a single hairpin bend to ease the gra- 
dient”. Now it was an April day too, but we had two advantages in comparison to 
Corbett. The first one was that we could start in the morning while Corbett, coming 
from the foot of the Pumagiri mountain (the night when he saw the famous lights) 
reached the climb in the early afternoon, the hottest time of the day. The second and 
even more important advantage was that, judging our fitness realistically, we had 
decided to go in the opposite direction, downhill, not uphill as Corbett did. 

Upon the Tala Des ridge it was considerably cooler than in the valley below with 
very pleasant and even refreshing morning temperatures. The night before I had an 
uneasy sleep because of some stomach problems and had to leave the tent three times. 
Though the toilet-tent being only 30 meters away I had to force myself a bit to leave 
the safety feeling of the tent while imagining glowing eyes of hungry leopards waiting 
for me in the outside. Of course this was only silly fantasy and the small beam of the 
flashlight never fell on anything else than slowly moving branches of bushes. Luckily 
my problems had gone in the morning and after breakfast we started the descent. 

The footpath from the Tala Des ridge down to the Sarda starts from the hamlet 
of Leti where our camp was and where the ridge has a small notch. On the way down 
there were spectacular views of the Ladhya flowing more than 1000 meters below and 
also Kot Kindri village could be seen in a distance aside a lower ridge on the other side 
of the valley. The descent was very steep and rocky with dozens of hairpin bends. But 
as Corbett did not mention hairpin bends in his account, we assumed, it had not been 
exactly the same path that Corbett had walked. My imagination is that the actual path 
from Leti starts its descent some 1-2 kilometers west (i.e. nearer to Haram) of the old 
one. Going down it does a slight bend to the left (east) easing the gradient a bit and 
approaches the Sarda roughly at the same place as the former one. It took us around 
four hours to reach the bottom of the valley with shaky knees and aching muscles. We 
registered at the post of the border police and showed our permits while being offered 
some cool water and chai. After a bit of small chat and a few photos, we continued the 
short distance to the village of Sem, where we put up our camp. 


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Here we could finally relax and refresh. I took soap, towel and fresh clothing 
with me and went to the Sarda River looking for a place to have a bath. I had to go 
several hundred meters upstream to find a reasonably clean place not being used to 
soak cattle. The Ladhya coming more directly from the mountains would have been 
a much better choice, as I realized later. Joseph still having energy went along the 
banks of the Ladhya to have a look into the ravine, where Corbett first had seen the 
tigress with her cubs that should later become the Thak man-eater. But I felt I had 
done enough walking for the day. So I stayed in the camp to have a bit more time to 
relax and to regenerate. At dinner time we were together again and enjoyed Corbett’s 
favorite grilled fish (mahseer) and also fish curry, our staff had provided. 

Wednesday, 23 th April, Going up to Thak: After breakfast, we did a small stroll 
through the village of Sem, trying to locate the place, where the mother of the Head- 
man became the second victim of the Thak man-eater while cutting brushwood on 
a steep bank between two terraced fields near to her house. We already suspected a 
certain building on the end of the village near the hillside, but were not sure. In the 
village we were directed to the oldest inhabitant of the Sem village, 83 years old Prem 
Singh Rameshwar, sitting on the balcony of his house. He showed us the place where 
the woman had lived and where she was killed virtually in front of the doorsteps. It was 
indeed the house, we had suspected. You can see the photo of the house in a chapter 
dedicated to the second victim of the Thak tigress. 

Back at the camp we were awaited by Sundar Singh, villager of Chuka and oc- 
casionally the sole resident of Thak. Chuka and Thak were on the other side of the 
Ladhya and Sundar Singh guided us to a place, where we could cross. The river here 
was not more than knee deep, but with his stony and uneven ground, it was not easy 
crossing anyway. With the help of our men we did it with more or less grace. Directly 
on the other side of the river was a small and for parts nearly indiscernible path that 
went steeply uphill in the direction of Thak. It was not the same path we went up from 
Chuka last time. The one we did now started some 500 meters upstream of Chuka and 
with very few bends it went almost directly up the ridge. Obviously it was used by 
animals, to get from the jungle to the water of the river, as we saw the pugmarks of a 
big cat - either tigress or big leopard - very near to the spot where the path entered 
the jungle. Because of the long walk the day before my “batteries” were empty, the 
going became slower and slower and we had to make more than usual stops on the 
way. But finally we reached the famous “rectangular piece of ground” where our path 
met the one from Chuka at the exact place, where “Byrne’s rock” stood. Joseph nearly 
immediately started with some measurements with the help of our guides, but the only 
thing I could think for the moment was to lay down and have a rest. 


308 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


Thursday, 24 th April, Thak and Kot Kindri 

The day in Thak had more to do with refreshing our memories than to bring us 
new insights. The plaque with our names was still there. The letters were a bit faded 
but were still clearly readable. There was no reason to doubt our conclusions about 
the rock and the only substantial change in the last two years seemed to be the well 
under the mango tree. Two years ago we had taken our shower here, but this time it 
was much more scarcely flowing. To fill his one liter water bottle, it took Joseph nearly 
five minutes and he had to look carefully for a spot, to get the water clear in his bottle. 
The taste of the water was as delicious and refreshing as ever, but what we had heard 
on our last visit, that the village was abandoned because of water scarcity, seemed to 
have a good foundation in reality. 

This time our camp ground was on the upper end of the village, behind the only 
partially inhabited house of Thak. Though the air was a bit misty, there were still beau- 
tiful sights from the terrace of the house and a cool and refreshing wind was blowing. 
Near sunset, the wind was so intense, that our tents swayed and faltered and as I was 
afraid, that they would break down, I asked Kamal to fix them. He and his men did so, 
but only to calm my worries as after sunset, when the winds came to rest, everything 
was spontaneously fine, quiet and peaceful. 

We had only one night in Thak, as Joseph got the news that his return flight with 
China Airways had been cancelled and he had to go back one day earlier. So we short- 
ened our stay in Thak and had an early start to Kot Kindri next morning, to avoid the 
heat of the day at least for the first steep part uphill. I felt much better than yesterday 
wisely walking with a very light daypack with only one extra lens for the camera in it. 
We passed “the rock of a missed chance,” or “Tewari rock” as we had called it and took 
photos there. After Joseph had climbed the rock as Corbett did in his attempt to kill 
the tigress, I persuaded him to pose for a photo on the backside of this rock where, 
if our assumption is right, the tigress was lying. Then I asked him to depart, leaving 
behind his cap, backpack and shoes for a second photo. This was the final prove, the 
man-eater had struck again. Sorry for the bad joke! 

After many stops we reached Kot Kindri shortly after noon. We had a rest at the old 
schoolyard, closed our eyes and were dozing on some quickly put down mattress until 
late afternoon. Fairly recovered, we had a walk through the village. Joseph wished to 
see the mango tree, where the Thak tigress had killed a woman. I was more interested 
in the village itself, where not more than three families were still living. A very nice 
place was the cool, peaceful and shady water well of the village. But peacefulness was 
depending on time and situation as the mango tree, where the woman was killed was 
only 50 meters away from the village spring. On the way back, Kamal had bought some 
fresh eggs for dinner. The sun was setting. Time for a sip of whiskey as a sundowner. 
Just for preventative health care - of course. 


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309 


Friday, 25 th April, Back to civilization 

We started at 7.30 in the morning from Kot Kindri. This time, we did not take 
the usual path down to Chuka and along the Sarda. There was another foot path from 
Kot Kindri to Thuligad - more direct and somewhat shorter - and we wanted to give 
it a try. We had to climb a roughly 300 meters high ridge behind the village and af- 
terwards the path should be on level or downhill. While passing Kot Kindri we were 
accompanied by a villager named Rattan Singh, who had remembered us from our 
2012 visit. After half an hour of steep uphill walking, we reached the small hamlet of 
Haire halfway between Kot Kindri and the top of the ridge. Here we meet Haiet Singh 
and sat down for a tee in the front yard of his house. We talked about the situation of 
the people of Kot Kindri. People earn more money elsewhere, he said. Many would 
live now in Tanakpur or still farther away as in Delhi or Mumbai. No, there were no 
more tigers in the surroundings of Kot Kindri, but of course there were leopards. Fife 
days ago a calf was taken by one of them. In every second village around here, in the 
last few weeks a dog or a calf had been taken or attacked. When saying Good Bye, 
Haiet Singh gave us lemons from his own orchard to take with us, which was a very 
welcome gift, as water with fresh lemon juice is wonderful refreshment on a hot April 
day in the Indian foothills. 

The way back turned out as it was said: After the steep ascend the path went rath- 
er comfortably on level or slightly down. On the way we met Laxman Singh, son of 
Haiet Singh, the villager, we just had a visit. He was on the return from Dubai for a 
visit at home. Laxman Singh had also had a lookout for the rock, where Corbett had 
shot the Thak tigress. We had heard that he doubted our findings and were curious 
about the reasons of it. He said that a year ago he had to accompany a visitor, an avid 
Corbett fan from Singapore, and the guy from Singapore was sure it was impossible 
to sit on the ledge of the rock that we believe was the one where Corbett sat and shot 
the tigress. Joseph proposed that probably the guest from Singapore was shorter than 
Corbett, as it is clear from many our photographs and videos that sitting on the ledge 
is definitely possible, exactly as Corbett described it, by reaching the right foot down 
to the ground, and holding with left hand on the top of the rock. Laxman Singh said 
the guest from Singapore could not present a better candidate for the rock where 
Corbett killed the tigress. 

With Purnagiri already in view the path now went steeply downhill and was cov- 
ered with coarse gravel and slippery slabs of rocks partially sheeted with fallen leaves. 
It now was no more easy to negotiate and one had to be careful not to slip and fall. 
This happened to me once, but I was lucky of not seriously hurting myself. However 
one lens of my beloved Olympus camera that was hanging over my neck got a dent 
in the front blocking the aperture ring. But things could have been worse. This little 
accident reminded me of Sid Anans words on my first visit, were we also talked about 
this alternative trek for the return journey. But we cancelled it because of some rain 


310 


BY MANFRED WALTL 


that would have made the rocks even more slippery. Now I know he was right. This 
trek can only be recommended in good weather conditions. But it has the advantage, 
that you can take a taxi from Purnagiri to Thuligad, which shaves 8 kilometers off the 
return journey. 

On the way back I was thinking about the possibility of a short visit in Purnagiri 
and of going “some steps” up to the temple. But seeing it already from afar did put 
everything in the right perspective. Purnagiri is an imposing conical peak with the 
temple on its top about 500 meters in height above the road. It is really awesome to see 
thousands of people - from a distance looking like an endless column of ants - climbing 
not “some” but thousands of steps in countless hairpin bends up to the temple. Defi- 
nitely this would be no short detour but a several hours of demanding walk. So I had 
no second thought of a possible visit and went straightly to the taxi that would bring 
us to Thuligad where our men were waiting for us. It was 1pm now. Joseph and I said 
good bye to all but Kamal, who went ahead with us. There was no more use for ponies, 
tents, cook and porters as from here we had entered civilization again. A car brought 
us now to Nainital, where we stayed for two more nights, before going back home. 

Saturday, 26 th April/Sunday 27 th April, Naini Tal and back home 

Kamal had booked an excellent hotel for us in Naini Tal - excellent not for lux- 
ury but for its spectacular view. It was 5-8 kilometers outside of the city center on 
Kilbury road and around 300 meters above the lake that was in full view from the 
terrace and our balcony. This day our first aim was a visit in Gurney House, where 
Corbett had stayed during the summer month. Though it is private property now, we 
could come into the garden through the backdoor and then were invited to enter the 
house. Though at the time of our visit the interior was under renovation with furni- 
ture partly covered with tarpaulin, old trophies were still to be seen and Joseph was 
very impressed by old editions of Corbett’s and other wildlife books behind the glass 
of aged but well maintained cabinets. In the outside he was interested to see where 
Corbett would pitch his tent, as we knew he often preferred to sleep in a tent and not 
inside the house. After Gurney House, we looked for the place, where the famous 1880 
landslip had occurred and tried to imagine from where Corbett might have watched 
it. We also went to the graveyard of St. John in the Wilderness, where many victims of 
this landslip had been buried and where we stood in front of the gravestone of Cor- 
bett’s mother. The graveyard is an overgrown place that probably no one had looked 
after since many years. We wondered about its future and the years it might still be 
there and not being annexed by the slum-like plane covered huts that already began 
to spread in the immediate vicinity. 

But there was not only Corbett related activity. We did a very pleasant boat ride 
across the lake from Tallital to Mallital and strolled around town to buy some sou- 
venirs for children and friends at home. One of the shops we sold completely out of 


CORBETT TRIP DIARY KUMAON, 2014 


311 


its nice yellow “Corbett - Save the tiger” T-shirts. We took them all. On the road we 
had a brief accidental meeting with Akshai Shah who we had met on our first day in 
Ranikhet and who was now in Naini Tal for an environmental talk. 

On Sunday morning we said goodbye to Kamal who went back to his camp in 
Mukteshwar and entered the car that should bring us to Delhi. Dr. Jordania had his 
flight back home on the evening of 27 th April, while mine was one day later. We parted 
at the airport and then the driver brought me to the office of Kamals Wildrift Ad- 
ventures in Saket, South Delhi. It worked also as a small guest house with 2-3 rooms, 
where I could spend the night. Next day I did some relaxing walks through Mehrauli 
Village and its old Archeological Park, where I could think about the adventure of the 
last weeks. In the afternoon I went to the HauzKhas complex with the Tomb of Firoz 
Shah Tughlaq, had my dinner and two ice cold beers at Park Balluchi in the deer Park 
of HauzKhas and after that went back to the guest house to fetch my baggage. A taxi 
took me to the airport for the Emirates flight back to Munich, Germany, with many 
thoughts back in India and in the world of Jim Corbett. 


312 


Corbett’s Timeline 

BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 

Only the main events in Corbett’s life are presented here, pertaining to his: home 
and family, hunting, professional life, love for the people, engagement in war and 
politics, health, his books and publications, and conservationism. Several new cor- 
rected dates are clearly marked, and the pages from this book where the new dates 
are discussed and established are indicated. The future Corbett scholar is expected to 
use this timeline as a guide and to add further lines and make necessary amendments 
where and when required, just as we have done here based on the previously known 
publications and new field and archive research materials. 


1875, July 25 - Birth of Edward James (Jim) Corbett, in their family house below Alma 
Hill in Naini Tal. 

1880, September 18 th - 5 years old Jim with his family watches in horror the catastrophic 
landslide that took 151 lives next to their residence in Naini Tal 

1881, April 21 - Christopher William Corbett, Jim’s father dies at the age of 58 

1882 - Gurney House, the family home is built with materials dismantled from the Alma 
Hill cottage. It would become the last residence of Corbett in Naini Tal 

1883 - Eight and a half year old Corbett is gifted his first firearm, a double-barreled muz- 
zle-loader by Stephen Dease, his cousin. Among his first dogs, ‘Magog’ helped him to 
stalk birds in first instance 

1886 - Eleven year old Corbett shoots his first leopard near Kaladhungi. His last shot in 
India would also take place around the same location 60 years later, in 1946 

1894 - Corbett joins the Bengal/North Western Railways (BNWR) as railway fuel inspector 
at Mokameh Gat/Samastipur 

1896 - Corbett gets the contract as trans-shipment inspector at Samaria Ghat for luggage 
transfer of the ferry crossing over the banks of the Ganges river. He remains there till 
1919 

1901 - Archibald D’Arcy Corbett, Jim’s younger brother dies at the age of 21 

1906, December 15 - Corbett acquires the hardware business and speculation agency of 
F.E.G. Matthews after the latter’s death in Naini Tal 

1907, May - Corbett sends his first man-eater, the Champawat tigress, to the Happy Hunting 
Grounds 

1907, July 01- Corbett’s first term of office as Municipal councilor of Naini Tal 


CORBETT’S TIMELINE 


313 


1909, March-April - Corbett shot Muktesar Man-Eater [New corrected date, see pg.: 
219-221) 

1909, April - First attempt at the Panar man-eating leopard [New corrected date, see pg.: 
222-224] 

1909, April - Corbett’s unsuccessful hunt for the Dabhidura Temple tiger [New corrected 
date, see pg.: 222-224] 

1909, July - Corbett resigns as Municipal Councilor of Naini Tal 

1909, 25 December - Charles Berthoud, the man who set Corbett on a career of man-eater 
hunting, dies after a short bout of enteric fever 

1910, September - Corbett shoots the Panar man-eating leopard 

1910 - Corbett is gifted a .275 Rigby-Mauser rifle by Sir J.P Hewett, Governor of the UP 
at a ‘Durbar’ in Naini Tal commemorating the accession of the Prince of Wales, George 
V, to the throne. The present is given as recognition by the Government for Corbett’s 
successful bringing to account of the Champawat man-eater 

1915 - Corbett buys land (221 acres) from the Government and sets up the stone wall 
around what will later be called Corbett’s village of Choti Halwani, for whose tenants 
will be freed from rent and land tax by Corbett during his lifetime and till his sister 
Maggie’s death 

1917, July - Corbett engages as ‘Captain’ of a troop of Labour Corps from Garhwal /Kumaon 
(70 th Kumaon Labour Corps) and gets commissioned for Flanders (Belgium) during the 
First Great War (The ‘Kaiser’s War’ according to Corbett) 

1919, March - Corbett donates Rs7,300 to the Municipal Council of Naini Tal, money which 
is used to complete the bandstand on the ‘flats’ on the upper shore of the lake at Mallital 
and for the construction of a soldiers’ reading room 

1919, Summer - Corbett, freshly retired from the railways goes for ‘Tahr’ Shooting with 
Robert Bellairs and Bala Singh on Mount Trishul. The latter, unfortunately, died few 
months after the expedition after being convinced that he had swallowed the demon of 
Trishul 

1919, Autumn - Corbett gets again commissioned as Captain, this time for the North West 
Border with Afghanistan (Waziristan) conflict 

1919, December 22 - Corbett begins 2 nd term of office as Municipal Councilor of Naini Tal 

1922 - Corbett and Percy Wyndham (then District Commissioner of Naini Tal) buy land for 
the Kikafu coffee estate on the slopes of Mount Meru in Tanganyika (Tanzania). Robert 
Bellairs is appointed as manager of the estate. Annual visits to this country till 1936 give 
Corbett the idea to live in Africa one day if he happens to leave India 

1919/22 - (Uncertain period) Corbett helps Percy Wyndham and chief of Police Freddie 
Young to track the ‘Indian Robin Hood’ Sultana 

1923 - Year marking the first undertones of conservationism of Corbett as he proposes by- 
laws to prohibit fishing in lake Naini just before sunset till after sunrise - the same year 


314 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


Corbett is appointed chairperson of the Public Works Committee of Naini Tal. In later 
years Corbett also presided over the Toll and Tax Committee and Finance Committee 

1923 to 1926 - By-laws concerning conservation of Nature are proposed to the Municipal 
Board of Naini Tal by Corbett. These concerned mainly measures to protect the sur- 
rounding forests from pack-goats grazing and prevention of felling of trees around the 
town and in domestic compounds 

1924, May 16 - Death of Mary Jane Corbett, Jim mother at the age of 87 years - Both Cor- 
bett parents are buried in the Sukha Tal cemetery behind the St John in the Wilderness 
church in Naini Tal 

1926, May 1/2 - Corbett shoots the Rudraprayag man-eating leopard, arguably the most 
notorious man-eating leopard in the recent human history 

1926, Corbett was awarded the “Freedom of the forest” privilege 

1928, April/May - Corbett shoots the grown cub of the Chowgarh man-eater [New corrected 
date, see pg.: 215-218] 

1928 - Corbett is awarded the Kaiser-I-Hind medal, a decoration given for services ren- 
dered to the Indian Empire. The ‘service’ here refers to no less than laying to rest In- 
dia’s (or perhaps the world’s) most feared man-eater, the Rudraprayag Leopard 

1928 - Corbett gets his first movie camera, a 16-mm Bell & Howell model as a gift 
from his friend Lord Strathcona. Idea germinates in Corbett’s mind, as inspired by F.W. 
Champion, a pioneer in wildlife photography, to swap the gun for the camera, or the 
hunting trophy for the wildlife photo 

1929, February - Corbett attends the District conference for the discussion on man-eaters 
placed on the hit list: 1. The Chowgarh man-eater; 2. The Mohan man-eater; 3. The 
Kanda man-eater. It is highly probable that instead of Kanda man-eater, the third tiger on 
the original list was the Talla man-eater [New corrected information, see pg.: 207-214] 

1929, April - Corbett lays to rest the Talla-Des man-eater and her two grown cubs, while 
himself being incapacitated by an ear injury sustained in Bindhukera two months earlier. 
The hunt of this man-eater is one of the most epic Corbett hunts 

1930, April 11 - Corbett finally kills the Chowgarh man-eating tigress in very dramatic 
circumstances after many unsuccessful stalking attempts during a period of two years 

1930, November - The Bachelor of Powalgarh, a tiger with record proportions is shot by 
Corbett near Kaladhungi. The shooting of this tiger begins the end of Corbett’s career 
as a trophy-seeker hunter 

1931, March - A Kaladhungi villager protecting his crops wounds the Pipal Pani tiger with 
Corbett’s muzzle-loader, mistaking him for a pig. Corbett later shoots the tiger under 
the misapprehension that it would become a man-eater. Later in August, the story of 
this tiger would become the published first piece of writing by Corbett (Hoghunters 
Annual, Vol. 4, Aug., 1931) 


CORBETT’S TIMELINE 


315 


1931, May - Corbett kills the Mohan man-eater in his sleep, regretting later for not having 
given him a sporting chance to defend itself 

1931, July - Corbett is promoted as ‘Major’ in the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (1ARO) 

1932, July 19 th - Corbett kills the Kanda man-eating tiger after the wounded tiger attempts 
a charge on him up a tree 

1932, August 31 - Corbett second published piece appears in the ‘Review of the Week’ a 
government publication. The piece entitled “Wildlife in the Village - An Appeal” defi- 
nitely marks Corbett’s stand as a conservationist, sounding the first alarm regarding the 
decimation of wildlife around villages 

1933, April 12 - Corbett’s Conservationism principles gather momentum as his resolution 
for the restriction on bird shooting and creation of a bird sanctuary around Naini Tal is 
approved by the Municipal Board, the first of its kind 

1933, April and May - Extensive moving-photography sessions by Corbett in and around 
Kaladhungi (Naya Gaon and Maldhan) and around the Ramganga basin (Dhikala and 
Path Dun) - some of these cine-shoots still survive at the British National Film Archive 

1934 - Corbett, Malcolm Hailey and E.A. Smythies’ plea for the creation of India’s first 
National Park around the Ramganga River basin leads to the creation of a wildlife 
sanctuary around the area. The park followed later 

1935 - Corbett’s self-publishes 100 copies of his first book “Jungle Stories.” Virtually all 
the copies were “read to death”. Currently only one surviving copy is in possession of 
London based gun maker John Rigby and Co [see the fate of the copy on pg. 144-149) 

1935 - The Sanctuary around the Ramganga basin area (South Path Dun, Malani, Bijrani 
and Dhikala) is upgraded as a National Park called Hailey National Park (renamed in 
1957 as “Corbett National Park”) as per decree of the Legislative Council of the UP 

1935, August - Second blast by Corbett towards irresponsible and indiscriminate exploita- 
tion of Nature entitled: “A Lost Paradise: Forest Fires in the Foothills” is published in 
the ‘Review of the Week’ 

1938, April - Corbett kills a man-eating tiger in Ladhya Valley, later named as “Chuka 
man-eater” (the giant tree from where Corbett shot the tiger, fell around year 2000). 

[New corrected date, see pg.: 225-233] 

1938, November 30 - Corbett kills his last man-eater - the Thak man-eating tigress after 
luring her with a tiger mating call 

1938, December - Corbett sets his ‘jungle studio’ in Kaladhungi and shoots his first wild 
tiger cine-photography, arguably the first to do so 

1939, January 10 - Corbett suffers a serious fall from a tree while filming tigers [previously 
unknown precise date, see pg.: 125-127] 

1940, August 27 - Corbett’s attends last meeting as Municipal Councilor of Naini Tal, his 
resignation took effect on October 4 th 


316 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


1940, September - 64-year old Corbett, as Major in the IARO seeks engagement for the 
Second World War (‘Hitler’s land collecting tour’ according to Corbett) but agrees to 
become vice-president of the District Soldiers’ Board (DSB) to look after the needs of 
the families of serving men and helping in recruitment of a pioneer corps 

1942 - Corbett is awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services 
rendered to the British Empire through his lifetime military engagements 

1942, October - Severe sickness resulting from an attack of tick-typhus assigns Corbett to 
three-months in hospital bed at Agra. This ends his previous engagement with the DSB 

1943, January - Corbett in his hospital bed nearing recovery lays the foundation of his 
manuscript by writing the chapter ‘Robin’ for his extended version of ‘Jungle Stories’ 
which would later be called ‘Man-Eaters of Kumaon’ by the OUP 

1944, February - Corbett is appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the British-lndian Army with 
special commission as senior instructor in Jungle Lore for the Cadet Corps engaged in 
Burma. The training camp at Chindwara (Central Provinces) had to be interrupted after 
3 months due to Corbett suffering his perhaps worst attack of malaria, confining him to 
the care of his sister Maggie for eighteen months 

1944, August - Corbett’s first official book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon, is published by OUP 
(Bombay) for 1000 copies 

1945, September - Back in Kaladhungi, and nearing rehabilitation from the malaria 
attack, Corbett learns about the success of the first and second print (OUP Madras) of 
Man-Eaters of Kumaon. The itch to write more causes him to ink the first lines of the 
‘Leopard of Rudraprayag’ 

1946, May - ‘Man-eaters of Kumaon’ becomes a worldwide best-seller after published by 
OUP (New York). It edges just above 536,000 copies sold as at May. Translated in 16 
more languages, this book has remained in print ever after 

1946 - Corbett is awarded the CIE (Companion of the Indian Empire) for his services 
rendered to the welfare of the people of India particularly veteran and blind soldiers, 
soldiers’ families and to the Civil and Military authorities of the Empire 

1946, Late Winter - Corbett reluctantly shoots his last tiger, a cattle-lifter at Kaladhungi at 
the insistence of a pertinent villager 

1947, November 21 - Corbett and Maggie sold Gurney House and left Naini Tal for good on 
November 30 th taking with them only the guns, fishing rods, man-eater skins, portraits, 
photos and medals. 

1947, December 9 - Jim and Maggie Corbett boarded on the SS Aronda for their final good- 
bye to India and their last servant Ram Singh. The previous days, they had a hectic 
voyage from Kaladhungi to Bareilly by road and then Bareilly to Bombay via Lucknow 
by train. The ship reached Mombasa on December 15 th 

1948, March - ‘The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’, Corbett’s second published book 
sees daylight in India while a little later in Kenya, Corbett attends the projection of a 


CORBETT’S TIMELINE 


317 


poor rendering of ‘Man-Eaters of Kumaon’ as a movie produced by Hollywood, “the 
best actor was the tiger” as commented by him 

1948, August - Corbett inks the first lines of the book ‘My India’ starting with the chapter 
“Sultana, India’s Robin-Hood”. The book finally saw light in January 1952 and is the 
third published book of Corbett 

1 948, October - Corbett, Ibbotson and two other friends invest in a wildlife tourism company 
called ‘Safariland’ with the only object avowed by Corbett as “to discourage shooting 
and encouraging photography”. The company becomes famous since its association with 
the filming of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s blockbuster “King Solomon’s Mines” starring 
Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr 

1951, January - Corbett sets the typewriter for his fourth book “Jungle Lore”. This book, 
with some auto-biographical material, gets delayed in publication and finally comes out 
in October 1953 

1951, October 10 - Corbett’s first public screening of his ‘wild tiger’ cine-movies, shot in 
India and of his African wildlife movies at Amen House, headquarters of the OUP in 
London, UK 

1952, February 5 th -6 th , during their visit to Kenya, Princess Elisabeth and the Duke of 
Edinburgh, Philip spent a night in Tree Tops Hotel next to Corbett’s residence, the 
Baden-Powell cottage of the Outspan hotel. Corbett was called upon to act as a local 
guide and to watch over the safety of the Royal couple. It was the night when the King 
George died and the Princess Elisabeth became the Queen Elizabeth II 

1953, October - While ‘Jungle Lore’ is released in India by OUP (Bombay), Corbett is 
in London, UK, for a successful eye operation. Later in Kenya, Corbett releases the 
manuscript of the second volume of ‘Man-Eaters of Kumaon’ initially known as “The 
Temple Tiger” to his editor Roy Hawkins in Bombay. Corbett admits having deliberately 
withheld this manuscript because according to him “Jungle Lore has to be read first” to 
understand the story of the Talla Des man-eater 

1954, July and August -The penultimate Corbett’s book, ‘Temple Tiger and More Man-Eat- 
ers of Kumaon’ is published in India and reprinted in the UK within one month only. 
This book, after Man-Eaters of Kumaon, has also remained in print ever after 

1955, April 19 th , Corbett dies after a massive heart attack in Nyeri, Kenya. He is buried the 
next day at St Peter’s Anglican cemetery in Nyeri. His final words were: “Live today 
as if it was your very last” to a youthful visitor and “Stay brave and try to make the 
world a better place for others to live in” to his sister Maggie. His final book ‘Tree 
Tops’, whose manuscript is completed only a few days before his death, is published 
posthumously later in the year 

1957 - Renaming of the Ramganga National Park (Formerly Hailey National Park) into 
Corbett National Park. The action was initiated by Corbett’s close friend, Pandit G.B. 
Pant, Prime Minister of the UP 


318 


BY PREETUM GHEERAWO 


1963, December - Death of Maggie at the age of 89. Her ashes, as she was cremated, were 
interred in her brother’s grave. Brother and sister are united in the Happy Hunting 
Grounds like they were during their passage on Earth 

1968 - A new sub-species of tiger is identified, known as the Indochinese (formerly ‘An- 
namese’) tiger and V. Mazak, the Czech biologist, making the discovery gives the Latin 
name “Panthera Tigris Corbetti” to it in recognition of the life and dedication of the 
‘excellent naturalist’ Jim Corbett |details see on pg.: 241-243] 

1972 - Corbett’s dearest project as to protect the tiger is initiated by Shrimati Indira Gandhi 
- A year earlier, a general ban was imposed on tiger shooting and the year 1972 was 
dedicated to assess the population. That same year, the tiger dislodged the lion (protected 
since 1958) as the National Indian Animal 

1973, April 1 st - ‘Project Tiger’ (a project to save the tiger from extinction) is launched at 
the Corbett NP, in memory of the person who became their first advocate 

1975 - The Government of the UP buys back the Kaladhungi house from Chiranji Lai, to 
whom it was sold by Corbett, and converts it into the Corbett Museum. Later that year 
in July, Corbett’s Centenary celebration is launched and a stamp (showing a tiger) is 
issued to commemorate the event 

1985 - Golden Jubilee of Corbett NP. The park celebrates also the first inversion of the 
declining number of tigers, twelve years after the shooting ban, as per the tiger census. 
This census held every five years, however controversial it may have been in later years, 
shows that in 2015 that the number of tigers has nearly doubled their 1985 number 


IN FOND REMEMBRANCE OF 
NALINA TIRVENGADUM GHEERAWO 


319 



(05 December 1972 - 11 February 2011) 

This dedication is a humble attempt to portray your life, in reconnaissance and 
gratitude for having illuminated our lives during the short period of time that you 
blessed us with your presence and devoted attention. From your dearest daughters 
Rushika and Jayalukshmi Reyna; and husband Preetum. 

"A dedicated teacher, titular of a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History, 
with a fifteen year career in high schools, a tutor for her students competing for the 
state bursaries, a team leader for the Students' Model United Nations conference 
for seven years in a row, a free-tuition giver to needy hardship afflicted students 
who would affectionately call her 'Maa' (Mother in Hindi), a secretary of the Par- 
ent Teachers Association during four years, an accomplished 'Veena' player, 'Bharat 
Natyam' dancer, 'Karnatic' singer, a pious and religious adept, exemplary daughter 
for the proudest of parents; a fan of Jim Corbett, Thor Heyerdahl, Fennimore Cooper 
amongst others, adoring John Keats, William Wordsworth and William Shakespeare; 
and above all, a wife and mother of two lovely daughters who miss her deeply for- 
ever. " 

Now in the Happy Hunting Grounds, we hope you are illuminating others too, 
who have and have not known you during your passage here. And before we forget, 
regarding the letter we were reading last from Dr Jordania: He did send us what he 
promised to Jayalukshmi though we missed the holy lake sessions we had arranged 
for him. Both of your daughters have good patrons now, and that, in all the conti- 
nents of the globe. 



320 


INFORMATION ABOUT THE 
AUTHORS OF THIS BOOK 


Priyvrat Gadhvi, is a Biotechnologist from Gujarat, India- the youngest 
member of the group. Priyvrat was a co-author on the ground- 
breaking project that conducted the world's first whole genome 
sequencing (total DNA mapping) of the Amur Tiger, African Lion 
and Snow Leopard published in Nature communications in Sep- 
tember, 2013. He is a member of the State Board for Wildlife, 
Gujarat and also heads a plant tissue culture unit in Gujarat' 



Joseph Jordania, PhD, is an award winning ethnomusicologist and evo- 
lutionary musicologist from the University of Melbourne, Aus- 
tralia. He published over hundred scholarly articles and several 
books on the origins of human choral singing, intelligence, and 
morphology. His latest book "Tiger, Lions and Humans: History 
of Rivalry, Conflict, Reverence and Love" (Logos, 2014) discusses 
evolutionary interaction between humans and big cats. 



Manfred Waltl, PhD, biologist and theologian from Munich, Germany. 
He studied biology, chemistry and theology and finished his stud- 
ies with a PhD on the significance of Sociobiology for Theology 
and Ethics (published as a book in German). Manfred is a dedi- 
cated photograph and took most of the trip photos. 



Preetum Gheerawo (Indian name: Kotecha Kristoff) - Known through- 
out the book as 'Kotecha', is a Theoretical Physicist (specialised 
in Radio-Astronomy and in Cosmology), and works in Mauritius 
as High School educator in Physics. A Former scholar in Evolu- 
tionary Biology and self-learned Naturalist. Lover of big cats and 
dedicated to their conservation. A Keen Corbett fan since nearly 
four decades. 



Fernando Quevedo de Oliveira is a photojournalist from Rio de Janeiro, 
Brazil. He has been working from 1988 at the newspaper O Globo. 
Published articles in O Globo, Geographic Universal Magazine, 
Manchete Magazine, Terra Magazine, Nature Magazine. Fernan- 
do is an avid nature enthusiast and visited the African savanah 
several times, countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, 
Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. He went to In- 
dia to watch tigers in Nagarahole Park in Karnataka estate. 



Marc Newton is Managing Director of London gunmaker John Rigby & 
Co. (Gunmakers) Ltd. He is a passionate sportsman and began 
hunting at a young age. Having spent six years studying under 
and workingwith Paul Roberts, a previous owner ofthe company, 
Marc has dedicated himself to revitalising the Rigby name in the 
modern gunmaking world with the help of his talented young 
team, and to helping the public find out more about the fasci- 
nating history of the firm, its guns, and the extraordinary men 
and women who used them, including Jim Corbett. 






"Behind Jim Corbett's Stories: An Analytical Journey to 
'Corbett's Places' and Unanswered Questions" attempts 
to answer some of the lingering questions of Corbett's 
legacy based on rigorous scholarly study of the existing 
evidence and archival documents. The book is written by 
a group of authors from different continents, passionate 
fans of nature conservation and researchers of Jim Cor- 
bett's legacy. The reader will find scholarly explanations 
of some of the mysterious encounters, described in Cor- 
bett stories, as well as details of his hunts, including case 
studies of the places, people, dates and controversies sur- 
rounding some of the Corbett stories. The book is the re- » 
suit of multiple trips of the authors to Kumaon, the back- 
drop of Jim Corbett's stories. 

: .v* - V' 


"Many people have expressed an eagerness to go on the 
trail of Jim Corbett. They will be curious and have ques- 
tions, doubts and imagination about the legendary hunt- 
er-writer-conservationist. This book will answer their 
questions and lay to rest their doubts." 

Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh 
Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore and WWF-India 


"'Behind Jim Corbett's stories' is a rich reward for true Cor- 
bett aficionados. An invaluable guide to anyone with the 
will to make a trip to Corbett country and second only to 
Corbett's own words." 

Keith McCafferty 

award-winning author and survival and outdoors skills 
editor of Field & Stream magazine, USA 


9 789941 437922 


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